The July 4 weekend offered some good news for hospitality businesses in Lake George, “good” being a relative term in the age of coronavirus.
Data show that in the lead-up to the Saturday holiday, overnight visitors boosted hotel occupancy each day that week, so that from being off 42 percent on Wednesday versus a year ago, by the actual Fourth, occupancy was down just 9.4 percent from 2019 levels.
Yes, you read that correctly: The deep ravine that hotels fell into as the pandemic spread worldwide remained, but wasn’t quite as deep on July 4.
“Traffic was strong considering the pandemic, and the guest experience is obviously very different,” Gina Mintzer, executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in sharing the resort community’s occupancy numbers. “Most people just wanted to be outside relaxing on a beach/at a pool, glad to be out of their homes.”
“Of course, it’s an off year, and we can’t make up the [lost] late May/June business,” she added. For 2020, “Success looks like 65-90 percent of last year’s business,” meaning that “the most local operators may be down is 35 percent,” Mintzer said.
Nationwide, the U.S. Travel Association reported an uptick in domestic travel spending for the week ending July 4, marking the tenth consecutive week of gains. But the group still expects full-year spending to drop 40 percent compared to 2019 because of the coronavirus.
A fact sheet it published refers to the “great travel depression,” and contends the pandemic’s impact on the industry is worse than spending declines seen in “two of the most devastating times in America’s history” – the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Great Depression.
A survey of consumer and hotel operator sentiment released last week by the travel news website Skift and Oracle Hospitality reflects that gloomy outlook.
Close to two-thirds of consumers polled in April indicated they had canceled all existing travel plans due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Meantime, about the same number of hotel executives estimated bookings for the rest of the year would be down between 26 percent and 75 percent.
Mintzer said it was “too early to tell” how soon Lake George might return to pre-pandemic levels, which one hospitality tracker suggests may take until 2023 for the hotel industry as a whole.
Because Lake George is a “drive-to” resort destination, Mintzer said, “we may bounce back quicker” than destinations more dependent on corporate clients.
But she said better guidance from the state on group meetings, weddings and sporting events – important drivers in the fall in Lake George – would help.
Events that had been on tap but postponed to the fall “may last until the end of July and then call it a day if no further guidance is forthcoming from the state for ‘gatherings,’” she said.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected].