Travel | April 20, 2020 2:20 pm

Hotels Are Moving Forward With Grand Openings Despite Coronavirus

The industry seems split on how to broach openings during a pandemic

Hotels Are Moving Forward With Grand Openings Despite Coronavirus
Marten Bjork/Unsplash

According to analytics firm STR, over 80% of American hotel rooms are currently empty. Of the 22 million Americans who have filed for unemployment over the last month, the hotel industry has been hit particularly hard, accounting for four million of those lost jobs.

For people who work in travel, there’s no good time for a pandemic to rip through the globe and prompt stay-at-home mandates. But it’s especially cruel that COVID-19 arrived in spring, which directly abuts high season for most American hotels and also represents prime grand-opening season for most new hotels around the globe.

In the midst of such chaos, the industry seems undecided on how to proceed. Those still moving forward with planned openings includes neighborhood inns and gargantuan franchises. A waterfront boutique in Newport, Rhode Island, called The Wayfinder, which owner Phil Hospod spent two years building, is still slated to open in mid-May. Hard Rock Hotels is also full steam ahead: the brand opened Hard Rock Dublin today, plans to reopen Hard Rock Amsterdam later this month, and will unveil properties in Budapest and Madrid later this year.

Other stays have been forced to play it by ear. Until recently, Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso was still planning on a mid-April opening. It’s now pushed its opening back to June 15. In the meantime, would-be guests can get to know the hotel through virtual tours and Instagram, where executive chef André Padilla is sharing some of his planned dishes. Two of the year’s most hyped openings — the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel and The Guardsman, London — are also planning for early summer.

For properties with functioning faucets and art already hanging in the lobbies, the situation is more turnkey, but many have deliveries stuck in factories across the country or globe. Employment is a wrench, too. While there’s no shortage of experienced hospitality workers looking for a job right now, interviews have to be conducted over the phone or computer. And even once a staff is filled out, how long can workers afford to wait if a property’s opening is pushed back month after month? How might an owner feel compelled to get the hotel off the ground (even knowing no guests might arrive) simply due to pressure throughout the industry?

It’s yet another sobering if unsurprising reminder of the extent of COVID-19’s economic effects, and how the virus will continue to disrupt the minutiae of industries we generally take for granted.

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