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 20 May 2020. 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. This timeline will be updated regularly, and we invite you to visit Hotel News Now’s page tracking the impact of coronavirus on travel and hotels for complete reporting.
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. (STR is parent company of Hotel News Now.)
“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.
UK Parliament passes relief legislation
The Coronavirus Act 2020 receives royal assent in the United Kingdom on 25 March, granting the government emergency powers to respond to the pandemic. The emergency package is worth £350 billion ($404.8 billion), equivalent to approximately 15% of the U.K. gross domestic product, and includes loans, individual grants for hospitality and other businesses that meet certain thresholds, and a yearlong holiday from paying business rates.
MEA hotels face huge occupancy drops
STR data for the week ending 21 March shows occupancy at the majority of hotels in the Middle East and Africa dropping below 30%. Dubai hotel occupancy dropped 75% in February and March, and Saudi Arabia’s holy cities of Makkah and Medina hit all-time occupancy lows, according to STR, likely because visas to Muslim pilgrims were suspended on 27 February.
Trump signs $2-trillion stimulus bill
U.S. President Donald Trump signs a $2-trillion U.S. stimulus package known as the CARES Act into law, offering aid in the form of direct payments to individuals, expanded unemployment insurance and loans and grants to businesses, among other provisions.
Mainland China hotels show early signs of recovery
Hotel occupancy in Mainland China reaches an absolute level of 31.8%, an increase from 7.4% in the first week of February, according to preliminary data from STR.
“We’re seeing green shoots in hotel occupancy figures, but we must stress that these are only early signs of a recovery that is likely to develop slowly,” Christine Liu, STR’s regional manager for North Asia, said. “Some of the demand stems from corporate travel, primarily within the same province, as well as small-scale meetings. Additionally, hotels are seeing business from those travelers quarantined after returning to China from other countries as well as those returning to cities for work. Overall, we’re seeing limited leisure business in city centers but a bit more recovery in that segment in surrounding suburbs.”
US RevPAR projected to drop 50.6% in 2020
STR and Tourism Economics release a 2020 forecast revision for the United States, projecting a 50.6% revenue-per-available-room decline in 2020. The revised forecast accounts for a 14.9% supply drop, a 51.2% demand drop, a 42.6% occupancy drop and a 13.9% decline in average daily rate.
UK, European hotel performance spirals downward
STR data shows occupancy in London and Dublin was down 80% for the week ending 22 March, compared to the same week in 2019. In Europe, Prague recorded a 97% occupancy decline for the same week.
Half the world under lockdown; US job losses hit high
Four billion people—roughly half the world’s population—are under some form of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order, according to The New York Times.
Also on 3 April, the U.S. Department of Labor issues March employment data showing a total of 701,000 job losses in March. Reuters reports “the leisure and hospitality sector shed 459,000 jobs--65% of all the positions lost in March. The loss, the largest monthly decline in the sector ever, effectively wiped out two years of employment gains in the industry.”
AHLA requests more relief
The American Hotel & Lodging Association sends a letter to Congress asking for additional resources and amendments to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The letter asks for more funding, increased limits on SBA loans and more.
Some European countries ease lockdown restrictions
Germany, the Czech Republic, Norway, Poland and Albania join Italy, Spain, Austria and Denmark among countries lifting some coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions, The Guardian reports. Restrictions around hotels, travel, large gatherings and vacation home usage vary by country and region in most cases.
UK hoteliers seek expanded relief measures
UK Hospitality representatives present to the House of Commons Treasury Committee requests for additional resources for hospitality businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The association is asking for extensions and more resources for furlough and retention programs, loan availability and more.
March 2020 US hotel performance shows new lows
STR posts March 2020 hotel performance data for the U.S., which shows double-digit year-over-year declines. Occupancy in March was down 42.3% year over year to 39.4%, average daily rate dropped 16.5% to $110.66, and revenue per available room fell 51.9% to $43.54 in the same time period.
March numbers show hotel declines across globe
Hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Central and South America show continuing performance decline, according to STR data. In comparisons to March 2019 data (reported in U.S. dollar constant currency except where otherwise noted):
• Asia/Pacific hotel occupancy fell 59.5% year over year to 28.3% as ADR declined 17.6% to $80.82 and RevPAR dropped 66.7% to $22.85.
• Europe hotel occupancy fell 61.6% to 26.3%, ADR dipped 8.1% to €96.13 ($104.17) and RevPAR decreased 64.7% to €25.27 ($27.37).
• Middle East occupancy fell 51.5% to 35.6% as ADR dipped 19.3% to $114.88 and RevPAR dropped 60.8% to $40.86.
• Africa's hotels saw occupancy similarly decrease 51.6% to 31.1%, ADR decline 6.4% to $102.09 and RevPAR decrease 54.7% to $31.72.
• Central/South America occupancy declined 48% to 31%, ADR dipped 6.1% to $85.61 and RevPAR dropped 51.2% to $26.56.
President Trump signs new relief package
An additional $484 billion in relief funding for U.S. businesses hit by the coronavirus is released in legislation and signed by President Donald Trump. The legislation includes $310 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.
US states begin easing lockdown restrictions
Alaska, Oklahoma and Georgia begin to reopen their economies to select businesses, lifting some restrictions on hair and nail salons, restaurants and others, according to CNN.
- Check out the USA Today interactive map tracking when U.S. states ease lockdown restrictions.
GOPPAR down more than 100% in the US for March
New monthly P&L data from STR shows that U.S. hotel gross operating profit per available room dropped 101.7% year over year in March. Total revenue per available room decreased 64% to $104.93 and total labor costs dropped 31.2% to $66.16.
China, South Korea move to revive business travel
South Korea and China strike a bilateral agreement to facilitate some business travel between the countries by easing some border controls, The Wall Street Journal reports. Beginning 1 May, South Korean business travelers are free to travel to seven provinces and three major cities in China, and Chinese business travel to South Korea is open, with heath-screening protocols in place.
Countries, regions vary in approaches to lift restrictions
Many countries and states around the world begin to ease pandemic-related restrictions for various types of businesses, while others continue to gradually lift restrictions, Business Insider reports. Also, a leaked U.K. government document, reported by the BBC, outlines the country’s approach to easing restrictions.
Q1 results are in
First-quarter performance and earnings results roll in from public lodging companies and as predicted, the results are not good. With the coronavirus pandemic reaching widespread global coverage in the last month of the first quarter, revenue per available room dropped sharply. While executives for the most part agree the second quarter will reflect even worse performance, several CEOs show some hope for the third quarter of 2020.
UK’s Boris Johnson outlines reopening plan
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation to “provide the first sketch of a road map for reopening society,” which establishes a general reopening schedule and calls for “at least some of the hospitality industry” to reopen by July at the earliest.
Final US states plan reopening
Massachusetts and Connecticut, the final states to outline reopening plans, are partially reopening this week.
States across the U.S. continue to vary in their approaches to reopening, with hospitality sector reopening guidelines varying widely.
- For more details on state reopening plans, visit the AHLA’s Reopening Guidance Tracker.
- For details on European countries easing travel restrictions, visit The Guardian.
‘Air bridges’ and ‘travel bubbles’ emerge
U.K. executives say the country may eventually allow travelers from countries with low coronavirus infection rates to enter the U.K. via what U.K. Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps called “air bridges.”
On 16 May, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia opened a “travel bubble,” the first within the European Union, according to The Straits Times. Some EU countries have lifted some restrictions for controlled business or government travel, and government leaders of Australia and New Zealand agreed they would pursue a travel bubble once travel is deemed safe.
Analysts further downgrade hotel performance forecasts
STR, Tourism Economics, CBRE and PwC issue revised downgrades to their 2020 and 2021 forecasts, citing multiple factors that could slow down recovery. Lack of corporate group and inbound international travel are factors affecting recovery time, analysts say, while employment and income will determine demand moving forward.
US hotel occupancy falls to 24.5% in April
STR records U.S. hotel key performance indicators at all-time lows for the month of April. Compared to April 2019, occupancy fell 63.9% to 24.5%; ADR fell 44.4% to $73.23; and RevPAR dropped 79.9% to $17.93.
Non-US regions record further performance drops
STR data shows continued downward motion for key performance indicators throughout the world in April. Compared to performance in April 2019:
- Europe: Occupancy fell 84.6% to 11.1%; ADR (in Euro constant currency) fell 30.1% to €77.52 ($86.57); RevPAR dropped 89.2% to €8.58 ($9.58).
- Asia/Pacific: Occupancy fell 60.3% to 28%; ADR (in U.S. dollar constant currency) fell 44.8% to $54.97; RevPAR dropped 78.1% to $15.38.
- Middle East: Occupancy fell 58% to 31.2%; ADR (in U.S. dollar constant currency) dropped 35.1% to $95.54; RevPAR decreased 72.7% to $29.82.
- Africa: occupancy fell 79.8% to 12.5%; ADR (in U.S. dollar constant currency) declined 31.1% to $77.85; RevPAR decreased 86.1% to $9.75.
- Central/South America: occupancy fell 79.7% to 11.6%; ADR (in U.S. dollar constant currency) decreased 28.7% to $61.83; RevPAR dropped 85.5% to $7.17.
EU proposes coronavirus recovery plan
The European Union proposes a $2-trillion coronavirus response plan, which calls for €750 billion ($837.5 billion) in recovery dollars and a €1.1 trillion ($1.23 trillion) budget over seven years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for “a massive fiscal injection” for the hardest-hit EU countries, according to the report, without increasing debt levels for some nations.
Boris Johnson updates UK lockdown restrictions
The U.K. remains under lockdown, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces some restrictions will ease. As of 1 June, groups of six people can gather, some students will return to schools in phases and more retail locations will plan reopening, according to the Independent.
US consumer spending falls in April
U.S. consumer spending fell a record 13.6% in April from the previous month, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. Personal income for the month rose 10.5%, reflecting a rise in government payments through stimulus payments, according to The Wall Street Journal.