Taking Small Steps
For an industry that’s been devastated by the impact of the Coronavirus even the slightest uptick in performance is something to celebrate, and fortunately there has been something to feel good about of late with some steady improvement throughout the U.S. in recent weeks.
Last week, Amanda Hite, president, STR, underscored the incremental progress by pointing out that the previous week the U.S. lodging industry sold 14.3 million room nights, which was up from 13.5 million and 12.4 million, respectively, from the two weeks prior.
During the “ALIS 6 X 8: Recovery Top Of Mind, Episode 2,” Hite explained the importance of tracking room nights sold.
“It’s the indicator of a recovery and it also provides a bit of optimism for me because each week we’re adding room nights sold. We are increasing week over week. At this point it’s a long road to recovery so we’re sort of looking at it week by week. These are the small steps that we’re taking to see some positive movement forward,” she commented.
Meanwhile, Hite acknowledged STR remains “very interested” in what’s happening in China as a possible indication of what’s to come in the U.S.
“We’re watching the recovery of demand in China as more than 90 percent of their hotels have reopened. We saw leisure demand come back there first and that’s certainly what we’re starting to see in the U.S.,” she said.
Hite noted that in the U.S. only about 3.5 percent of hotels are currently closed, which represents a “huge improvement” from the middle of April when that number was more than 20 percent. By comparison, in the United Kingdom as well as many other countries in Europe that number remains well over 20 percent “because the restrictions are still in place,” according to Hite.
She acknowledged that there is an increased focus on leisure travel within the industry. As an example, she noted the most recent weekly results showed weekend occupancy of 48.6 percent, which compared favorably to the weekend before, which was 43.6 percent.
“Certainly we are more in tune to weekend occupancy numbers than we’ve even been in this country and really every country as we reopen. Occupancies are increasing and we’re looking at leisure demand in drive-to markets. That’s the recovery that we’re keeping an eye on right now,” stated Hite.
The sharp focus on leisure is primarily because of the steep drop-off in corporate travel that the industry has experienced. Hite pointed out that portion of business remains very much a question mark going forward.
“Certainly we had been thinking end of summer is the time frame that we might start to see businesses getting more comfortable getting back on the road. There’s just so much unknown about the virus, it’s hard to know when businesses are going to be comfortable taking the risk to put their employees back on the road to do business. Unfortunately, we’ve all have learned to do technology so well. I think the travel industry is going to have to lead the way. We will have to put employees on the road to do business; we will have to host meetings in person,” she said.
Hite was asked what’s been the most surprising aspect for her about what’s taken place in terms of lodging industry performance since the outbreak of the pandemic. “Just how bad it got so quickly, the worst ever in a matter of a month. Just because we never experienced that much of a drop before,” she stated.
Hite, however, did add some positive perspective. “We’re still selling a million room nights a day at our absolute worst. That’s the bottom floor for us as an industry in the U.S.,” she noted.