Mark Calitri reports: The nation’s hospitality industry is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Hotels reeling from pandemic
By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer Mar 21, 2020 0

The nation’s hospitality industry is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
In Owensboro, Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if our hotels experience a 60% to 70% drop in occupancy (for March) from the previous year.”
He said March 13 was definitely Friday the 13th.

“One hotel reported that they lost over $50,000 in future reservations,” Calitri said. “That’s in one day! This type of news indicates to me that April results could be worse.”
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, the largest trade association for the hotel industry, said in a news release, “The economic impact on the hotel industry is already more severe than the 9/11 and 2008 recessions — combined.”
Calitri said, “We were anticipating a record-breaking March and April this year. We’re trying to rebook as much as we can for later.”
More than a dozen events have been affected in just those two months, he said.
“With the April cancellations of the All A Boys Baseball Championship, All A Girls Softball Championship, 2A Boys and Girls state championships and Mid-South Conference Tennis Tournament, the Daviess County economy lost an estimated impact of at least $635,000,” Calitri said.
That includes hotels, restaurants, service stations and other parts of the tourism sector.
“The impact of the coronavirus on Kentucky’s travel and tourism industry has been devastating,” Hank Phillips, president of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, said in an email. “There is no sugarcoating it.”
“Leisure and business travel and meetings and events have come to a virtual standstill,” he said. “Our industry was the first to be impacted and therefore has been dealing with the business effects the longest and most deeply. In the face of that, I have been overwhelmed by the concern being shown by tourism business owners, CEOs and general managers for their employees and their families, and for the communities where their businesses are located.”
Tourism had an $11.2 billion impact on Kentucky last year, Phillips said, with 95,000 jobs and $800 million in state and local taxes.
The local CVB operates on a 3% tax on hotel room rentals.

Madison Silvert, president of the Malcolm Bryant Corp., which owns both Hampton Inn hotels in Owensboro, said, “Although occupancy is down, our commitment to our people has been to not cut hours. We are using this time to make each property sparkle beyond even the high levels we are accustomed, and to train our people to be better prepared for when occupancy returns. Our plan is to come out on the other side of this better than ever while maintaining our commitment to our employees.”
He said, “From a guest standpoint, we are taking every precaution that they have an incredible and, above all, safe stay. Increased sanitization standards are present throughout our properties, even beyond what Hilton has suggested.”
Silvert said, “We need to continue to find new ways to create experiences for visitors and business travelers that keep people coming to Owensboro and coming back to Owensboro. Each person who visits here is a potential return visitor, future investor, or future Owensboroan.”
Claude Bacon, vice president of sales, e-commerce and administration for Owensboro-based LinGate Hospitality, which operates the Holiday Inn and Courtyard Suites by Marriott, said, “The Covid-19 crisis is clearly the most challenging time in the hotel industry. Occupancy levels have greatly decreased. Our main concern is the impact on our employees and look forward to the day when we can return to pre-Covid employment levels.”
An Oxford Economics study on travel industry losses predicts “a 31% decline for the entire year — including a 75% drop in revenue over the next two months and continued losses over the rest of the year reaching $355 billion.”
“We project the U.S. economy to enter a protracted recession based on the expected downturn in travel alone. The recession is likely to last at least three quarters with the lowest point in the second quarter of 2020,” it said.
The study projected a decline of $55 billion in taxes this year and a loss of 4.6 million jobs.
“What we need right now is analogous to the term ‘bending the curve’ that we hear about slowing the spread of the virus enough that our hospital facilities and our heroic health care providers are not overwhelmed,” Phillips said.
“On the tourism business side, we are trying to bend a curve, too,” he said. “We are seeking federal support of the industry that will bend our curve upward just enough that we will still be here when people are able to start traveling again. And that’s the one thing we know for certain — people will travel again and we will be here to be at their service.”
Calitri said, “It would be irresponsible to continue tourism marketing and promotion during this time of uncertainty. The Kentucky Department of Tourism led by Commissioner Mike Mangeot has officially suspended marketing and advertising for 30 days.”
But, he said, “Once this threat subsides, our No. 1 priority going forward is creating more reasons for people to come and spend money. The CVB is working with our clients and tourism partners to weather this storm and look to rebook as many groups as possible.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301

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