As you’d expect, the numbers tell the tale.
Summer occupancy and room rates at hotels in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area were off from year-ago levels as regulations and hesitancy associated with the coronavirus pandemic lingered.
In June, occupancy at the 150 or so hotels counted locally stood at 32.5 percent, down by more than half from the same month in 2019, according to global hospitality watcher STR. By August, it had improved to 45.9 percent, but was still below the year-ago level of nearly 79 percent of available rooms sold.
Meanwhile, the average daily room rate in August, which in 2019 was the highest for any month that year at $151.37, stood at $103.85, down 31 percent.
The Glens Falls metro area, by the way, which encompasses Warren and Washington counties, fared a bit better, with August occupancy at 140 or so year-round and seasonal properties at 68 percent, versus nearly 82 percent in 2019, according to STR.
The average daily room rate, at $220.43 in August, was actually 7 percent higher than a year earlier.
Both metros have come a long way since the depths of the pandemic in April and May, when the percentage of rooms occupied was in the high teens and low 20s. But leisure travel – embodied in tourists – has been lighter, and hotels’ meetings and events business – the chamber breakfasts, wedding receptions and association conferences categorized as “group business” – has languished here and elsewhere.
Indeed, CEOs of publicly traded hotel chains, discussing third-quarter results with analysts last week, suggested it could be well into 2021 – and after a COVID vaccine is available – before group business and corporate travel return.
“Large group-business demand is heavily linked to confidence around widespread vaccine availability, effective therapies and scalable rapid testing solutions,” Hyatt Hotels Corp.’s chief executive, Mark Hoplamazian, said on one conference call. “We’re cautiously optimistic about recovery in business travel in the second half of 2021.”
For now, some of the chains are focusing more on local business, such as making meeting space available to companies needing a place to bring remote workers together occasionally. Or they’re rejiggering rooms for day-pass use by individuals who want a break from working from home.
Hyatt’s Hoplamazian even mentioned looking into creating “highly assured bubbles” – environments where everyone you might interact with has tested free of coronavirus – to encourage a return of meetings and events, which some industry observers estimate account for a third of the typical hotel’s revenue.
One analyst on the Hyatt conference call noted Hoplamazian seemed “a little bit more cautious” in his remarks than other CEOs who held similar presentations last week.
“All I can tell you is that based on what we are seeing in terms of the virus progression, we, looking forward, have to anticipate that that’s going to impact demand in some way, shape or form,” he 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]