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Larger hotels, conference centers struggling through pandemic

Posted at 4:50 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 17:50:11-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With a vaccine on its way for most citizens, the travel industry is hoping to see a resurrection in the summer of 2021. But for many hotel owners, waiting another six months could be too late.

During a year of canceled events and quarantines, the hotel industry has taken quite the hit. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), 71% of hotel owners say they won’t make it another six months without some kind of financial help from the federal government.

Well past the busy season, between April and September about one-third of hotels across the country are facing bankruptcy or closure by the end of the year.

“The rest of the year you’re usually operating under a break-even point," said AHLA president, Chip Rogers. "So this year if you looked at April through September, we never made it back to break even, which made it really, really difficult.”

Larger hotels are struggling the most, with many conferences and sporting events being canceled. According to data collected by Visit Omaha, in the metro area revenue for hotels is down 55% and the economic impact from these conferences has dropped by 75%.

With this drop in revenue has come a jump in layoffs.

“When you pretty much lay off 65-75% of your staff, that’s an uneasy feeling because you have so many people that have worked so hard," said Steve Hilton, president of the Metro Hospitality Association.

Hilton says bringing staff back on when travel numbers go up will be difficult as many hotels will be competing for help all at once and many workers have moved on from the industry.

But the news of a vaccine does give the industry a little hope for 2021, if they can hold out just long enough.

“You just have to have optimism," Hilton said. "You have to have faith that at some point things will turn around. Health and safety is paramount right now.”

One way the community can help local hotels is for local businesses and groups to host conferences here rather than picking an outside destination.

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