Writer: Joey Garrand
2 min read February 2021 — The pandemic has wreaked havoc on Charlotte’s hospitality industry. However, industry leaders have been hopeful for a recovery and the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina is another step in that direction.
This week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the state will ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions through Executive Order No. 195. “Today’s Executive Order lifts the Modified Stay at Home Order requiring people to stay at home and businesses to close to the public between 10 pm and 5 am …. Many businesses, venues and arenas will have increased occupancy both indoors and outdoors. Executive Order No. 195 has two general categories of occupancy restrictions: 30% capacity and 50% capacity. Because indoor spaces have a higher risk of spread for COVID-19, indoor facilities in the 30%-occupancy category may not exceed (250) people per indoor room or indoor space.”
The hospitality industry has suffered greatly during the pandemic, according to Matt Allen, general manager of Hyatt House Charlotte/Center City, in an interview with Invest:. “Very much like everyone else in the hospitality industry, the hotel had a difficult year. The hotel had to learn to balance retaining staff and the intricacies of furlough. It was one of the more challenging years for the industry in general. We had capital improvement projects scheduled, but many had to be canceled. Normally every year, we complete a certain number of new fixtures and fittings, but we were unable to do a lot of those. Instead, we focused on getting the hotel as clean as possible.”
A key driver of the hospitality industry in Charlotte is corporate demand and it will take more than an easing of restrictions to bring that demand back. “We anticipate business travel is not going to be what it was in 2019. It’s certainly going to take a while for people to build confidence in business travel. Charlotte has an extremely strong business travel segment. Getting those companies that have travel bans or have been suggesting people stay at home to be confident about their associates traveling is going to take time,” Douglas Hustad, general manager of Omni Charlotte Hotel, told Invest:.
Allen also believes that corporate demand will take time to recover. “Concerning corporate travel, the big names that were coming in the past have cut down on those expenses entirely. We’re receiving a little bit of payoff from the industries that are flourishing, such as tech and healthcare. Charlotte is a big banking town and, from talking with people from the industry, a lot of this business needs to get done face to face. We’re anticipating business to pick up at the end of the second quarter of 2021.”
Of course, the industry is doing much better now than it was at the onset of the pandemic. “In the early months of the pandemic, we went from 75% occupancy pre-COVID to 6%. In recent months it has averaged 35%, showcasing a gradual but encouraging increase,” said Carrie Duncan, general manager of AC Hotel Charlotte City Center, to Invest:.
While the easing is a sign of hope for the ailing hospitality industry, there is still a long way to go before pre-pandemic demand returns. As society gradually reopens, every little step counts.
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Photo Credit: Governor Roy Cooper’s Facebook