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Hotel Stays Slowly Increase as Summer Approaches

June 8,2020

See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Renee Umsted here.

The lobby of the Omni Fort Worth Hotel looks a bit different this summer. Valets and associates wear personal protective equipment, plexiglass at the front desk separates hotel staff and guests, and signage and floor markers encourage social distancing.

This is the new normal for the Omni since reopening about three weeks ago. With COVID-19 reducing and restricting travel, just as businesses are beginning to reopen, cleanliness and sanitation have become some of the top priorities among those in the hospitality industry. 

Julie Faver-Dylla, executive director of the Hotel Association of Tarrant County, says hotels have expanded their cleanliness standards to adhere to CDC guidelines and prevent diseases.

The next challenge is attracting visitors. For the Omni, general manager Larry Auth says the primary method of doing this is marketing to inform customers of the hotel's offerings and amenities, such as the pool, spa, and some restaurant options.

“I think we as a hotel industry are able to offer that escape or that staycation to change up the scenery for them,” Auth says. “So, for us, it’s more so just reminding them of stuff they can do since they’ve been at home for so many weeks.”

Among hotels in Fort Worth, occupancies have slowly increased each month since March, says Bob Jameson, CEO and president of Visit Fort Worth.

However, this has not come without some struggles. Jameson says within a week, hotel occupancy for the city overall fell to a single-digit percentage from rates in the mid-70s.

“I can’t look back historically and think of another time where this entire industry has just ground to a halt so quickly,” Jameson says.

Hotels have had to lay off staff, and some, such as The Sinclair and The Ashton, closed temporarily.

At the same time, Jameson and Faver-Dylla say Fort Worth’s busiest travel seasons are the first and fourth quarters of the year, meaning the summer months are usually slower times for hotels and other businesses in the industry, so the lower number of visitors may not be as much of a shock.  

A couple of the revenue generators that would help keep hotels in business throughout the summer are conventions and conferences, but many of these events have been canceled amid the pandemic, Jameson says. However, the City of Fort Worth is trying to assist the hotels by deferring for three months the collection of hotel occupancy taxes.

“Every dollar matters when your business volumes are cut as dramatically as these are,” Jameson says.

Some hotels have turned to more creative measures to bring in money. For example, Faver-Dylla says the Marriott Hotel & Golf Club at Champions Circle started selling to-go meals, produce, and other essential items; other hotels have donated their food to furloughed staff or the food bank when the pandemic first emerged.

“Hoteliers are smart and know how to adapt by implementing cost-saving measures in every area,” she says.

Though there are still challenges ahead for hotels, Jameson says he expects the increasing occupancy levels to continue.

“We’re headed in the right direction, but it’ll take a while," he says. "It’ll take a while for this to get significant momentum."

Location Mentioned: Omni Fort Worth Hotel