Executives with the American Hotel & Lodging Association said during a media press conference Wednesday that the organization is in talks with the White House on providing economic stimulus packages to help the U.S. hotel industry amid coronavirus concerns.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. hotel industry is already seeing an impact from the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and owners will need help to make it through the current economic climate, especially independent hotel owners, sources said.
Speaking during a media conference call on Wednesday, Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, said the organization is concerned about “the steady pace of cancellations of conferences and meetings and its impact on our employees and small business owners.”
“Sixty-one percent of the hotels in the United States are small businesses who will face difficult decisions should these cancellations continue,” he said.
The coronavirus outbreak continues to expand and no one is sure how long “the public health situation will last,” said Brian Crawford, EVP of government affairs for AHLA.
“In the best-case scenario, what we’re seeing currently is a loss of 4.5 points in occupancy and a 15% decline in revenue,” he said. “At this point, our small business owners are projected to be operating in a negative cash-flow position in terms of their expenses and debt.”
For that reason, AHLA officials have met with the U.S. government about the impact the coronavirus is having on the hotel industry and has asked the administration to “take immediate steps to help small business owners and their employees by ensuring access to capital, liquidity and increased credit markets,” Crawford said. “We want our small business owners to be able to continue to employ their employees during this difficult patch.”
On Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days, which will begin Friday.
Industry analysts have reported that some hotels are losing up to $100 million per day in room revenue alone, “which does not account for the additional revenue generated during meetings and events in food and beverage (and catering),” he said.
“The impact will also be felt in our communities,” Crawford said. “Guests spend $550 billion in hotels and communities while they're traveling from restaurant to retail. So the downstream impacts are hugely important as well. And that's why we are taking the lead in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association in having conversations with the White House and Congress.”
The organization is also asking the U.S. Department of the Treasury “to work with banks on debt forbearance and flexibility around loan options,” Crawford said, as well as working with Capitol Hill on an economic stimulus package that would benefit employees and employers.
“We’re focusing on previous packages that were passed after 9/11, after (Hurricane) Katrina, after the Gulf oil spill, economic stimulus packages and disaster-related packages that have been tried-and-true,” he said. “These are things that Congress has already agreed upon; there's a voting record and a precedent for these types of provisions, and there's a menu of options available to Congress, and right now they're trying to determine which of these options would be best for this specific scenario.”
Crawford added that he expects the House of Representatives to “take up” an economic stimulus package on Thursday, but he is unsure if the Senate will agree.
“But next week, I do expect there will be ongoing conversations between AHLA, the White House and Congress on what a potential economic stimulus package could look like,” he said.
Rogers concluded the call by saying that travel in the U.S. is still safe today, and that the industry will be able to move past the coronavirus outbreak if others can get on board with getting that message across.
“If we can get decision-makers at every level, from public companies, to private companies, to elected officials, to look at the facts and make decisions based on actual facts and health guidelines from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we will move past this a lot more quickly than if we are making decisions based solely out of fear, which unfortunately has led us to where we are today.”
The experts and numbers say travel is safe if precautions are taken, he added.