DC hotels can get a lifeboat with “bleisure” travelers after COVID-19 revenue loss
DC hotels can get a lifeboat with “bleisure” travelers after COVID-19 revenue loss

DC hotels can get a lifeboat with “bleisure” travelers after COVID-19 revenue loss

“Bleisure” travel could provide relief to DC’s hotel industry after the pandemic lowered revenues significantly.

The DC hotel industry is still in a hole, and its slow recovery in 2021 took a step back with the omicron variant. But “bleisure” travel – mixed business and pleasure travel – could help with industry recovery.

Business travel, the most lucrative type of travel for hotels in the district, is expected to remain significantly down for the rest of 2022, according to a report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Even nationwide, only 58% of meetings and events are expected to return this year. Business travel will account for 43.6% of room revenue this year compared to 52.5% in 2019.

But that does not mean that travelers do not also do business. The report notes the rise in “bleisure” travel – for example, a four-day weekend, where a traveler works far from their hotel rooms on Fridays and Mondays and plays tourist on the weekends.

DC hotels are adapting.

“What guests tell us they want is no surprise,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “You need to have a really strong internet connection because people do so much work from their rooms.”

“The things they would normally like, such as the food buffets, may not be quite as important as they used to be. When you look at room service, it’s almost non-existent because people are using apps to order food now. “

While the brave enough to travel when hotels began to reopen were rewarded with lower room rates, this is no longer the case, even with prolonged high vacancies.

“Right now, the rates are higher than they have been for a while,” Rogers said. “You can get into a hotel because the occupancy is lower than it usually is, but the prices do not get much lower.”

He added, “accumulated demand has actually driven prices a bit higher for some leisure travelers,”

But the report not only gave hope to the DC hotel industry; it also highlighted its losses.

DC hotels lost more than $ 2.9 billion in room revenue in 2020 and 2021, and that meant a loss of nearly $ 420 million in tax revenue, according to the report. Even two years into the pandemic, there is still a long way to go.

“While many large markets, especially those in the south, have recovered, DC has not recovered. In fact, revenue has still fallen well over 20%. Occupancy at the same time last year was around 57%. It is below 50% right now,” said Rogers.

Although hotels have brought staff back after mass layoffs at the start of the pandemic, the area’s hotel industry still employs almost 9,000 fewer people than it did before the pandemic – a drop of around 52%.

Nationwide, the association says, hotels this spring and summer could experience the largest increase in leisure travel in a decade or more, and room revenue is expected to approach 2019 levels.

Hotels across the United States lost a total of $ 111.8 billion in room revenue during 2020 and 2021, and the AHLA expects the hotel industry to end this year with a continued decline of 166,000 employees. The new report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, called “The Year of the New Traveler,” is online.

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