Hotel industry struggling as fewer people travel

Posted at 7:07 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 20:07:37-04

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Neb. (KMTV) — As the coronavirus is affecting businesses across the country, the hospitality industry is one of many industries taking a huge hit.

With people not traveling for work or vacations, hotel stays are constantly being canceled. That leaves hotel owners with a choice of staying open and keeping staff employed or closing its doors and limiting expenses.

“It’s kind of tough,” said Deven Patel, one of the managing members at the Comfort Suites West Omaha on 192nd and Center. “Eventually we’re going to bounce back. We just don’t know how it will be. If it gets dragged longer than this whole quarter, [it] will be completely bad this year.”

The hotel is currently open, but in the 63 room hotel, only ten rooms are filled. Patel said the hotel is normally filled to 75-percent occupancy but is now at five to 15-percent occupancy. He said the hotel is keeping lights off in some parts of the hotel in order to be energy efficient.

“This quarter, just for one property, is probably going to make us lose a quarter of a million dollars,” Patel said.

Typically the months of March through June are some of the busiest in Omaha but due to low numbers of guests this hotel shut down its entire third floor.

“At some point, our second floor could’ve been closed out too,” Patel said. “45-50 percent business for the hotel industry usually comes in during that time frame."

Inside the rooms staff are rigorously cleaning between visits to make sure every place is in tip-top shape. Maids and staff are required to wear gloves, common areas such as the fitness center are closed, interaction the staff makes with the guests is limited and room keys are washed with hand sanitizer before being handed out.

“As long as everybody does their job and they stay apart from each other, keep healthy hygiene, transmission is a little bit less,” Patel said.

Patel runs multiple hotels throughout the state. He said he’s furloughed large numbers of his staff at some locations, but at this one he’s been able to keep almost his entire staff on pay by having them alternate shifts.

“I love to work and nobody has a job these days so I’m lucky to work,” said an employee at the hotel 3 News Now talked to. The employee didn’t want to be named for this story but said she is grateful to have work.

Patel said he no plans to close this hotel soon. He hopes the hospitality industry can get through this crisis in one piece.

“I hope it doesn’t last too long because if it drags it will hit us more,” Patel said.

Patel said his hotel could potentially house doctors or nurses fighting the virus who don’t have a place in the area to stay but nothing is set in stone on that front yet.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.

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