As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads around the world, this Hotel News Now timeline tracks the major events that have an impact on the global hotel industry.
Editor’s note: This timeline was last updated on 24 March 2020 for the period of 14 March through 24 March. It does not contain information on all hotel closings around the world, only some that serve as indicators of larger trends. For the most up-to-date hotel closure information, visit the hotel’s website.
GLOBAL REPORT—This timeline tracks major events surrounding the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its intersection with the global hotel industry.
In January 2020, the World Health Organization identified a novel coronavirus outbreak that originated in the central China city of Wuhan. By the end of January, cases were reported outside Mainland China and efforts were underway to curtail travel to and from areas reporting cases of the virus.
This timeline picks up from 30 January, when the WHO declared the virus a global health emergency:
World Health Organization declares outbreak a global health emergency
Signaling an impact beyond the initial outbreak in China, the World Health Organization declares a global health emergency around the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
US imposes first travel restrictions; early analysis shows hit from Chinese tourists to US
The Trump Administration announces a temporary travel restriction barring U.S. entry by foreign nationals who had traveled to China in recent weeks.
Early analysis by Tourism Economics calls for a potential 25% drop in Chinese visitors to the U.S. in 2020, leading to a loss of 4 million roomnights and $5.8 billion in visitor spending.
Preliminary hotel data shows steep China declines
Preliminary data and analysis from STR shows a hotel occupancy decline of 75% in Mainland China from 14-26 January 2020. Performance during the Chinese New Year holiday period was significantly worsened by the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Many hotels in Beijing have closed. Beijing is the first destination people go to from Wuhan,” Christine Liu, STR regional manager for North Asia, tells Hotel News Now. “This is likely to be far worse than 17 years ago, when the SARS virus occurred, as people travel more than they did then and because it was the lunar period.”
Asia hotel closures spread
Hotel companies and governments institute property closures to help curb the spread of the virus outside of the initial outbreak areas. The Macau government suspends gaming operations on 4 February; and by 7 February, hotel companies are closing properties. Along with other companies with hotels in the region, MGM China Holdings Limited closes all Macau properties by 12 February, GGRAsia.com reported.
Reporting 2019 year-end and Q4 earnings, hotel companies share updates on their China and Asia operations, including initial closures and their early effects on outlook. On 10 February, Hilton reports 150 hotels, including 33,000 rooms have closed. On 13 February, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts reports 1,000 hotel closures in Mainland China. On 17 February, InterContinental Hotels Group reports 160 of its hotels in Greater China are partially to fully closed; and on 26 February, Marriott International reports 90 of the company’s hotels in Greater China are closed.
Early hotel data emerges showing virus impact
As the travel industry begins to feel the impact of restrictions and cancellations, STR analysts examine data to determine the early effects of the coronavirus outbreak on markets around the globe, including the Asia/Pacific region, Bali, Australia and New Zealand, Singapore, Dubai and Europe.
Hyatt withdraws guidance
Hyatt Hotels Corporation announces the withdrawal of its previously announced 2020 outlook “due to the impact on travel demand outside of Greater China, in part as a result of new corporate travel restrictions in North America and Europe, as well as near-term cancellations outside of Greater China, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
US travel associations send safety message
In a joint news conference, five U.S. travel and commercial organizations send the message that travel is safe, and canceling trips and meetings is not necessary.
Pebblebrook withdraws guidance; HSI falls in February
Pebblebrook Hotel Trust withdraws its 2020 full-year and Q1 outlooks citing coronavirus effects. Data also is released showing the Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index fell 11.7% in February.
Hilton, Park withdraw 2020 guidance
Hilton and Park Hotels & Resorts are the latest public lodging companies to withdraw Q1 and full-year 2020 outlooks, citing uncertainty and the rapidly changing situation around the coronavirus epidemic.
Pandemic declared, travel advisories expand
On a pivotal day in the unfolding developments around the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization designates COVID-19 a pandemic. At this point, the WHO cites 118,000 cases, more than 4,000 deaths and presence of the virus on all continents except Antarctica.
President Trump outlines plans to stop most Europeans from traveling to the U.S. for 30 days, and the U.S. Department of State issues a Global Level 3 health advisory urging U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel abroad” due to the virus.
AHLA calls for industry stimulus
American Hotel & Lodging Association executives brief the industry on meetings with U.S. government officials, in which they requested “immediate steps to help small business owners and their employees by ensuring access to capital, liquidity and increased credit markets,” AHLA EVP of government affairs Brian Crawford says. “We want our small business owners to be able to continue to employ their employees during this difficult patch.”
Markets take a fall
U.S. stocks fall 7% after the market opens, following similar declines in European and Asia-Pacific markets. U.S. stocks enter bear market territory, with travel companies hit particularly hard.
CorePoint withholds 2020 guidance
Citing the business impact from coronavirus and other economic concerns, executives with CorePoint Lodging withhold 2020 guidance on a call to report fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 earnings with analysts.
“As we've all seen, over the last few weeks, there's been a sudden and rapid deterioration in the macro lodging environment due to the actual and anticipated impact of the COVID-19 environment,” CorePoint President and CEO Keith Cline says.
Spanish government orders hotels close immediately
Spain’s government announces on 14 March that hotels are on a list of non-essential businesses that must close effective immediately, reported by the Associated Press.
Casino companies, Disney announce closures; CDC calls for more group limitations
Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts both announce they will close all Las Vegas properties starting Tuesday, 17 March. Disney, which first announced staggered closures of all its parks worldwide on 12 March, announces the closure of all Walt Disney World resort hotels and Vero Beach Resort on Friday, 20 March.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issues guidance calling for cancellation or postponement of in-person events of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, which spurs several state governments to call for restaurants and bars to close.
Fed rate cut prompts more stock drops; Park, Scandic give updates
Stocks fall worldwide following an announcement from the U.S. Federal Reserve that the central bank cut interest rates close to zero.
On the real estate investment trust front, Park Hotels & Resorts announces it has taken “various actions, independently and in coordination with its hotel management companies, to mitigate the effect on its business” from the COVID-19 virus.
Stockholm-based Scandic Hotels Group’s Board of Directors announces a plan to cancel its 2019 dividend to shareholders.
UK, Canada announce more restrictions
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson advises citizens to avoid gatherings and all non-essential travel. At the same time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Canada will close its borders to all non-citizens/non-permanent residents, with the exception of U.S. citizens.
Marriott begins furlough of employees as property closures ramp up globally
A spokeswoman for Marriott International tells The Wall Street Journal that the company expects furloughs at its properties around the globe to reach into the tens of thousands as hotels continue to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it expects to “bring back as many of the furloughed employees as possible when the novel coronavirus is contained and business returns,” The Journal reports.
US travel industry presents $150b aid plan to White House
Executives from U.S. travel industry associations meet with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other travel leaders to present a plan calling for $150 billion in relief for the travel sector. The plan includes suggestions to establish a Travel Workforce Stabilization Fund, an Emergency Liquidity Facility for travel businesses and to optimize and modify SBA loan programs to support small businesses and employees, reports HNN’s Dana Miller.
Brand, REIT employee reductions begin; companies lay out strategies
On 17 March, Marriott International issues a statement about temporary furloughs of tens of thousands of workers around the world. On 19 March, Marriott executives explain early strategies to help reduce cash outlays for owners, implement corporate-level, cost-saving measures and provide emergency assistance for employees.
In subsequent days, news emerges from other hotel brand companies and real estate investment trusts about employee reductions and ways they are assisting workers. Hilton says it is connecting “workers from temporarily suspended hotels with … short-term jobs created by the global pandemic” through an online resource center. Hyatt announces a combination of suspended operations, temporary furloughs and pay and work reductions, along with resources for benefits and health care.
On the REIT side, Ashford Inc. CEO Monty Bennett tells CBS News on 18 March the company has laid off or furloughed 95% of its 7,000 employees, and one-third of the company’s salaried staff was permanently let go. Pebblebrook Hotel Trust on 23 March announces it will temporarily suspend operations “at the vast majority of its hotels and resorts,” along with significantly reducing staffing.
Australia and New Zealand detail border closings; US adds to travel advisory
Australia and New Zealand will close borders this week to non-citizens and non-residents, with some exceptions. According to The Guardian, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ban is in place because most COVID-19 cases in the country had come from overseas.
The U.S. Department of State raises the global travel advisory to Level 4, the most severe level, which advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel.
As lockdowns progress, hotels follow suit
As the pandemic marches on, states around the United States adopt varying levels of partial to full lockdown protocols, which include hotels in some locations. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on 21 March issued an emergency order to close all hotels in the county, with exemptions for first responders, medical personnel and some other groups, as reported by ABC-7 News in Miami.
On 24 March, India’s prime minister announces “a total ban of coming out of your homes” for all 1.3 billion people living in India, for 21 days, as reported in The New York Times.