SpringHill Suites by Marriott is unable to fill more than 10 rooms, according to its acting general manager.
SBJ file photo
SpringHill Suites by Marriott is unable to fill more than 10 rooms, according to its acting general manager.

Local hotel industry hit hard by coronavirus

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The local hotel industry is facing steep losses as travel has nearly screeched to a halt and events are getting canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Springfield hotel room revenue last month through March 28 dropped by 42.8% to $6.1 million compared with the same period a year earlier, according to data provided this morning by Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Tracy Kimberlin. March 22-28 room revenue fell by 72.4% to $706,200, compared with the same week last year, he said.

"The decrease will widen the last three days of the month," Kimberlin said via email. "April numbers will look like the numbers from the week of (March 22-28) for the entire month."

Data show the occupancy rate plummeted to 25.5% during the seven-day span. That compares with a citywide occupancy rate of 88.7% during the same week of 2019, according to the CVB. For the month of March, occupancy slid to 44.2% through March 28 compared with the same time last year, Kimberlin said.

The drops have impacted the local economy as a whole, he said, as city and county hotel sales and room taxes dropped to the tune of $406,814 through March 28 compared with a year earlier.

"The total loss of taxes from the drop in visitor spending is at least double the amounts ... and the tax losses will be even greater in April," Kimberlin said.

Cara Walker Whitely, president of the Springfield Hotel Lodging Association, said the industry has been "uprooted."

Whitely said she didn’t know with certainty how many layoffs and furloughs have occurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said "it has happened to hundreds of hotel employees and will continue to happen as hotel occupancy drops into the single digits."

"The SHLA has 50 hotels in its membership and every hotel has experienced the sudden and drastic decline in hotel occupancy," she said via email.

Whitely cited travel restrictions and canceled events for a drop in the typically fruitful month of March.

The Q Hotel & Suites, Greenstay CourtView and Bass Pro Shops Angler's Lodge have shuttered temporarily, she said.

Ruthie Javier, acting general manager at SpringHill Suites, said the hotel had laid off at least 10 employees as it works to fill a fraction of its 92 rooms. The hotel opened in October 2019 with 25 employees.

"We're not getting more than 10 rooms a day filled," she said. "We're had quite a few layoffs, but we're still working through that."

Hotel Vandivort General Manager Zackary Oxley said both of its restaurants have closed and that "business is slow." He declined to disclose specifics but said the hotel has been filling in the "neighborhood" of 10 of its 98 rooms. The hotel's $9.75 million V2 expansion opened in September with 48 new rooms adjacent to the existing downtown lodging center.

Springfield Business Journal reached out to multiple hotels in an effort to gauge the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality industry. Other hotel operators did not return requests for comment by deadline.

Springfield hotel operators O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC and EAS Investment Enterprises Inc. previously disclosed temporary layoffs. Earl Steinert of EAS Investment Enterprises estimated he let go half of his roughly 160-employee workforce among the three Hampton Inn & Suites and a Home2Suites by Hilton Springfield North, according to past reporting.

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