Half Of U.S. Hotel Rooms Projected To Remain Empty In 2021

Rosewood Hotels Washington DC townhouse

Half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty in 2021, according to The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

In “AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021”, the forecasted state of the hotel industry in 2021 and into the immediate future, examines the high-level economics of the hotel industry’s recovery, the specific impact on and eventual return of business travel, and consumer travel sentiments.

Healdsburg Inn
Healdsburg Inn

While some 200,000 hotel jobs are expected to be filled this year, direct hotel operations jobs will remain nearly 500,000 jobs below the industry’s pre-pandemic employment level of 2.3 million employees. Overall, the accommodations sector faces an 18.9% unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty in 2021.

“COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of hotel job growth. Yet the hallmark of hospitality is endless optimism, and I am confident in the future of our industry,” Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, says in a statement.

Four Seasons San Francisco
Four Seasons San Francisco

Business travel is forecasted to be down 85% compared to 2019 through April 2021, and then only begin ticking up slightly. In fact, according to the report, business travel, which comprises the largest source of hotel revenue, remains “nearly nonexistent,” but it is expected to begin a slow return in the second half of 2021.

Among frequent business travelers who are currently employed, 29% expect to attend their first business conference in the first half of 2021, 36% in the second half of the year and 20% more than a year from now. Business travel is not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024.

56% of consumers say they expect to travel for leisure, roughly the same amount as in an average year, according to AHLA, and nearly half of consumers see vaccine distribution as key to travel.

When selecting a hotel, enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices rank as guests’ number two priority, behind price, according to AHLA.

Covid-19 has had the biggest impact in history on empty hotel rooms.

More stories:

NYC’s first five-star hotel to close from Covid-19

A 9-step guide to travel safely during Covid-19

7 positive predictions for travel after coronavirus pandemic

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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