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Hotel industry impacted as Americans opt not to travel for the holidays

The Hyatt Regency has strategically lit up rooms to create a heart on April 2, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. Hotel operations ceased at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak resulting in an empty hotel void of lights. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The majority of Americans seem to be paying attention to calls from health and government officials to stay close to home for the holidays this year as COVID-19 cases rise across the United States.

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A national survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows 72% of Americans are unlikely to travel for Thanksgiving this year, and 69% are unlikely to travel for Christmas.

This shift in habits will impact more than just how many places you’ll have to set at the dinner table, compounding the challenges the hotel industry has experienced during the ongoing pandemic.

The hotel industry was one of the first impacted by the pandemic, and will be one of the last to recover. Occupancy rates, the AHLA reports, partially rebounded from record lows in April but have declined again since Labor Day.

Hotels were seeing record levels of check-ins in 2019, but industry leaders say they don’t expect to see business and group travel reach numbers like that again until 2023.

Business travel has been even more impacted than leisure with just 8% of Americans saying they took an overnight business trip since March. For comparison, 32% of respondents had taken an overnight vacation or leisure trip since March. Next year, 24% said they are likely to travel for spring break, while 44% said their next hotel stay will be a year or more from now, or that they have no plans to stay in a hotel.

Of the currently employed respondents in the survey, 19% — or 8% of all adults — expect to travel for business within the next six months, while 62% of employed Americans indicated that they have no plans to stay in a hotel for business.

The survey was conducted in the first week of November with 2,200 adults by Morning Consult on behalf of the AHLA.

“This holiday season will be an especially difficult time for all Americans, and our industry is no exception,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the AHLA. “Fewer people will be traveling, and business travel remains nearly non-existent.”

Rogers said this is why it’s important for Congress to pass a relief bill now as “millions of Americans are out of work, and thousands of small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open.”

Due to the drop in travel, more than half the hotels in the United States report that they have had to cut staff by at least half, with more layoffs possible.

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“For those who are considering traveling for the holidays, hotels will be ready to welcome you,” Rogers said. “Through our Safe Stay initiative, hotels have enhanced our already rigorous cleaning protocols to be more transparent and give travelers even more peace of mind.”

In many areas, hotel taxes contribute a significant amount of state and local budget.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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