I work at a value hotel in the part of the world that serves the Ark, the Creation Museum, the Cincinnati Reds, and other event spaces in the area. The region has been growing, hotels have been springing up like crazy, and many locals saw the hotel business as a great place for career mobility.
Then the coronavirus happened.
Now everything has changed. For some hotels, business has dropped to 10–20 percent (at best) of what they were doing and things look extremely grim. Despite the slowdown, it has also been incredibly chaotic. Everything is scary and unpredictable day to day. Here are 10 realities of life in the hotel industry during the coronavirus epidemic.
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10 Hotels Are Essential, But Layoffs And Hour Cuts Are Still Happening
In the crazy age of the coronavirus, hotels have been deemed essential. But that doesn’t ensure smooth sailing for hotel companies or their employees. Although many essential services have seen a spike in demand, hotels haven’t participated in the surge as tourism is at a standstill all over the world.
Many hotels do not want to deal with increases in unemployment insurance. So they are trying first to cut the hours of their employees before laying people off.
However, bigger hotels are often faring so poorly—due to an apocalyptic loss in occupancy—that they have no choice but to lay off employees. Some establishments near Disney World are furloughing people left and right because the closing of the park has left some 1,000-room hotels at only 1 percent occupancy. At that rate, they can hardly afford to keep the lights on, much less continue to pay all their employees.
As for Las Vegas, many resort hotels have shut down because a huge amount of their money comes from the casino business. This requires larger gatherings of people to be successful. More than anything, they are basically gaming spaces with a hotel attached. Without gaming resorts, there is no point in staying open.
9 Some Hotels Are Offering Special Home Office Rates For Daytime Stays
At least one hotel so far, Red Roof Inn, is offering a weekday special from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM to use their hotel rooms as a home office space. This offer is actually quite cheap, running at a little under $30 per day for your temporary office space. They even allow one other person and one pet.
Now this is half off most nightly rates for that type of hotel, but they’re probably not offering full amenities. Presumably, they don’t expect the guest to use the bed or the shower. No breakfast, either.
However, this is still quite inexpensive. Those who are searching for home office space might want to look into this or other hotels that may soon offer similar deals. To get away from it all and have your own work space for $30 dollars a day is fairly cheap, especially if the kids are home due to quarantine and you cannot concentrate long enough to finish your work.
8 Phones Have Been Ringing Off The Hook With Cancellation Calls
Once the number of COVID-19 cases escalated sharply, gatherings started to be banned and hotels repeatedly received the worst kind of calls: cancellations. For the first several weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, the phones were ringing off the hook at my hotel. That was also true at many other establishments.
Everyone was getting cancellation calls for stays that ranged from only a few days in advance to those in late summer. Occupancy dropped like a stone overnight. The managers and owners of many hotels are now terrified that, at best, they will break even for the year. But that’s the rosy case and very unlikely to happen.
Many hotel employees are slightly traumatized at this point. Some have reached a point of weary resignation, knowing that most remaining calls will still be cancellations. We’re all just hoping that our hotels don’t have to close permanently and that we don’t have to look for new jobs.
There is also the worry of having your hours cut. Although the US Congress passed a stimulus package to help with unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, it can still be difficult to apply for and receive the money in a timely manner.
What do you do while you’re waiting? Very few places are hiring, especially part-time workers.
7 Breakfast Services Are Suspended Or Greatly Limited At Most Hotels
As the COVID-19 outbreak spiked significantly, one of the first things to change was how food was served. To comply with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, restaurants closed their interior dining rooms. So you have to use delivery, curbside pickup, or drive-through because gatherings of more than a few people are now banned.
This left a lot of hotels in a weird gray area. They are not sure if they are properly complying with the law or not. Most states did not say anything specific about hotel breakfasts one way or another, although some states were unclear about whether a breakfast “buffet” was acceptable.
As a result, some hotel managers wondered if continental breakfasts were still okay as long as only a few guests gathered at once. Meanwhile, some establishments have shut down these dining options entirely, even if they don’t serve any hot foods. It hasn’t helped that the authorities have not given much guidance or clarification on the issue.
Out of an abundance of caution, most hotels have suspended their breakfasts or are offering to-go bags. If you need to visit a hotel for business or something, you should call them first to see if they still have any kind of breakfast options. That way, you’ll know if you need to plan ahead for the next morning.
6 People Are Trying To Get Rock-Bottom Prices When Hotels Are Already Struggling
Many people know that travel has been suspended in most places, that people aren’t gathering, that a lot of vacation destinations are closed, and that most hotels are doing incredibly badly right now. In fact, they might continue to perform poorly for the rest of the year.
However, like all things business, a hotel isn’t a charity and guests don’t consider their business a charity, either. With all the people running out of money right now, those who do need a hotel are looking for rock-bottom prices. This makes room sales supercompetitive.
Currently, some hotels are offering such low competitive rates that they risk losing money on their rooms because they are not receiving enough revenue to cover all the overhead. Some hotel owners believe that having a fuller house will look better to their creditors.
At the end of the day, though, any hotel that is selling out right now is barely breaking even and may even be operating at a small loss.
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5 When Prices Go Down, Many Criminals Come To Stay
As we’ve mentioned, hotel prices have cratered. As a result, drug dealers, prostitutes, and other ne’er-do-wells see these rock-bottom prices as a great opportunity to use hotels as the base of operations for their businesses. Many druggies who need a place to crash during a high are also tempted by the low prices.
If this wasn’t enough, many cities are now paying to put up homeless people in hotels during the pandemic. It would be great if they stayed inside, which is the whole point. However, many of these people are not self-quarantining. Instead, they are getting into trouble.
The problem extends beyond housing the homeless. They still need money for food, and some are trying to score drugs. Others just have side hustles. They want to save money so that they won’t be homeless forever.
Although it is great to give the homeless a place to quarantine, they simply don’t have the resources to just stay inside hotel rooms for weeks. They certainly don’t have the distractions available to them that most of us have, except for TVs in their rooms.
To make matters worse, many homeless people have mental illnesses. Just giving them homes without providing the help they need may reveal or even cause larger issues.
4 Some Hotel Workers Have Made Themselves Paranoid Wrecks Over The Virus
Like anyone on the “front lines,” some hotel workers have made themselves paranoid wrecks over getting the virus. Before finally quitting, one of my coworkers was donning a new pair of gloves after every customer and wearing a mask when the CDC was still saying it wasn’t necessary (although we know better now). She was also scaring the guests, who were afraid that she was wearing a mask because she had the coronavirus.
Although you want to be careful to avoid getting the virus, it is also important to base your actions on common sense and not just paranoia. Wearing gloves can help, but you also need to wash your hands after you take them off. You can’t touch anything that’s potentially infected and then touch your face, or the gloves are useless.
They can easily give you a false sense of security. In addition, your paranoia can stress you out and lower your immune system. Although hotel workers clean constantly, wash our hands like crazy, and take a lot of precautions, there is a point at which your methods to sanitize become nonstop panic cleaning that just dries out your skin without any additional health benefits.
3 Business Is Almost Impossible To Predict Even Day To Day
As stated in the introduction, I work at a value hotel. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I could work the morning shift and predict how many guests we would have by the end of the day, give or take five individuals. That’s true even for hotels with lots of walk-in visitors.
Even on days when we weren’t doing that well or when it was a slow time of year, business was usually predictable day to day. Once you know the flow of your business, you develop a sense for how things will go.
However, this pandemic has changed everything. Due to cancellations, the criminal element, people traveling at the last minute to get back to their places of origin, homeless people, and many other factors, the hotel business has become impossible to predict day to day or even hour to hour.
The value hotel where I work has about 115 rooms. Right now, we are filling about 20–40 rooms a night. It is almost impossible to predict occupancy or which days will be better or worse.
2 Guests Are Much Chattier Because Everyone Wants To Talk About The Pandemic
You will get some chatty guests at a hotel, but most people just want to do their business and get on their way. However, the pandemic has changed all that. Customers and employees alike regularly commiserate about the virus.
In fact, regular guests who were never chatty are now talking much more. This virus has scared many of us. By discussing what’s going on, we have that human connection that can comfort some people and make them feel better.
Depending on the individual hotel employee, this can be either cathartic or stressful. Some like the chance to talk about the pandemic. Others are already hearing enough about it on the news and at work. These employees just wish they could forget about the virus for a few minutes.
Unfortunately, when you work in customer service, it is part of your job to chat people up and be sympathetic—even if you wish you could just ask them to please stop talking about the pandemic. You are already stressed out enough over it.
1 The Future Is Uncertain—No One Knows If Or When Things Will Be Normal Again
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, hotel owners and employees are nervous about the future of hotels. Many owners are convinced that this fiscal year is going to be a complete wash. Hitting breakeven is the new goal (if they can even manage it).
To make matters worse, no one is sure how bad this will be for the hotel industry in the long term. Yes, some hotels and motels will always exist because people need a place to stay. But others cater to guests who are visiting resorts and other attractions.
After the end of the pandemic, we may see a long-term change in how people interact at events, in large crowds, and with other groups. The Internet is such a powerful tool that we may see more virtual entertainment come out of this. Possibly, only smaller groups will be allowed to congregate, even in resort towns.
Even if the law allows, things may never go back to “normal” if general attitudes change. This could be truly ruinous for the resort hotel industry as about 95–99 percent of their business would be permanently gone.
Just like every situation involving the pandemic, we can only do our best as we wait to see what will happen. The world may not change that much in the long term. But it’s impossible to predict at this point, and the uncertainty can be frightening.
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