by ALFREDO ORTIZ
After many months of uncertainty, Americans are desperate to leave their homes for a vacation or a trip to visit family. Small businesses are looking forward to opening their doors without restrictions or regulations. Hoteliers are eager to have guests back in their hotel rooms in the coming months.
With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, these are no longer distant dreams.
For hotel owners and their employees, the past year has been challenging on all accounts. Among the hardest realities was the almost complete pause to domestic and international travel, leaving hotel rooms empty. Thankfully, according to Statista, hotel occupancy rates have made a significant increase since last April, when they fell to a low of 24.5 percent. Now, with the vaccine and increased bookings, this number will continue to climb.
While it’s impossible to predict what the future might hold, access to a vaccine gives travelers the added confidence needed to hop in the car, book a flight, and secure their lodging.
Even with international travel still limited, the holiday season proved to be a busy travel time for domestic travel in the U.S. According to data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the week of Christmas saw more than 1 million travelers per day, setting a new travel record during the pandemic. Before the new year, travel agencies and companies (including resorts) were seeing an increase in travel bookings for 2021.
According to RateGain, a technology company tasked with powering hotel bookings, hotels experienced a significant increase in reservations on December 11, the same day the Pfizer vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association. RateGain reported 9,512 transactions in the U.S., the largest number of daily bookings since the pandemic outbreak a year ago. What’s better is the number reflected a similar number of sales per day seen in November and December of 2019. Popular destinations of bookings included Las Vegas, NV, Orlando, FL, Nashville, TN, Austin, TX, and New Orleans, LA.
The vaccine, as expected, is a glimmer of light illuminating hotel hallways after months of darkness. However, many are still focused on recovering economically. While the latest round of COVID-19 relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was welcomed, independent hoteliers know economic stability will return when rooms are filled.
According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), The first passage of PPP granted more than 5.2 million loans totaling more than $525 billion. The decision from Congress to pass another round of PPP funding at the end of December offered a second lifeline to many mom-and-pop shops to help keep their employees on the payroll and their doors open for business.
In order to accelerate pre-pandemic activities for independent hotels, Google launched Travel Insights with Google, a platform aimed to provide data on booking trends and travel demand. This feature will greatly assist independent hotel owners as they plan to welcome more guests in the months ahead.
Small businesses in all industries are anxious for what the months ahead will bring. As more Americans are vaccinated, opening business doors without restrictions or regulations will become a reality. Hope for independent hoteliers is on the horizon.
Alfredo Ortiz is the President and CEO of the Job Creators Network.