Report: Without more federal aid, half of U.S. hotels could close with massive layoffs

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Music City was greeted with more grim news Thursday.

“Nashville is taking a beating,” said Rob Mortensen, President and CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association, in response to a new survey released this week by the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association conducted a survey of more than 1,000 members from September 14-16, 2020. Survey topics included the hotel’s financial outlook and staffing levels at the six-month point into the COVID-19 pandemic.

The responses from hoteliers around the country aren’t great. The AHLA found that half respondents are in danger of foreclosure.

“A lot of people have been dipping into funds, using borrowed money to stay afloat and a long drawn out recovery is a recipe for disaster,” said Mortensen.

The organization also found 67 percent of hotels won’t make it another six months given the current and projected travel demand without further federal assistance and 74 percent will be forced to lay off more workers.

“The same time last week, last year, hotel occupancy in Nashville was over 82 percent this year under 40 percent so you can see a dramatic difference,” said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Now, Mortensen says hotels have GM’s cleaning rooms, checking people in, even valeting.

Rogers says two out of three hotels say they have less than half of their pre-COVID staff back on the job, and 56 percent have been able to retain no more than 40 percent of their employees who were working pre-pandemic.

“We’re not asking for a handout, we just want to make it to the other side so we can keep these businesses open and people employed,” said Rogers.

AHLA has rallied its members to urge lawmakers to pass additional stimulus relief before departing on recess to campaign. This ongoing effort has resulted in more than 200,000 letters, calls, and tweets to members of Congress, an unprecedented demonstration of unity and support.

“If we’re looking to get back to 2019 levels, you’re not going to see that again until 2023 so how we’re looking at it now, help us survive the rest of 2020-21, we’ll start rebuilding again in late 2021 and by 2023 we should be back to normal,” said Rogers.

Mortensen says it’s important to remember these are people, not just hotels. Jobs lost means less food on the table, and a tougher time paying rent.

“I think that’s really the story,” he said. “This is who we are.”

News 2 is reporting on Nashville’s historic growth and the growing pains that come with it. Click here for more Nashville 2020 reports.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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