Hotels report steady increase in weekend occupancy, but more is needed

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INDIANAPOLIS — The pandemic hit the hotel industry particularly hard leading to thousands of furloughs in Marion County. Without demand, some people were ultimately terminated.

Tourism officials report the final big event of 2020 in Indy, the Performance Racing Industry event, canceled. Unfortunately, the rest of the year does look a bit bleak for hotels. That is according to Patrick Tamm, President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association.

“The next six months for the hospitality industry, we forecast as potentially much harder,” Tamm said, “significantly harder than the previous six months because of cold weather and other matters.”

But, there are smaller events scheduled in individual hotels and more Colts games to come. Phil Ray, the JW Marriott’s General Manager, said the hotel is seeing encouraging numbers.

“We started really slow,” Ray said. “Now we’re getting to the point where typically weekends will be getting up in the 25%, 30% range. But, really it’s growing and now we’re seeing weekends getting almost to the point that it’s almost kind of pre-pandemic levels where at least there’s some demand starting to arrive. From the time we were very, very slow. We are starting to see some build.”

The JW Marriott shared some of the same obstacles hotels across the country experienced.

“We were closed for about 108 days but then after we reopened, we’ve been slowly seeing business and confidence start to build,” Ray said.

Ray admitted they did furlough a large group of staff members, but once they reopened they were able to bring some people back. But, they have not reached the pre-furlough employee number yet. This happened to hotels across the map.

“With no demand coming for the rest of this calendar year, we had a lot of owners that held out and kept people on furlough,” Tamm said. “But simply with no demand, a lot of hoteliers had to terminate people regrettably.”

The large events happening in single hotels are a boost, but Tamm said more is needed.

“We need to be able to sustain that though for seven days a week,” Tamm said.

Fortunately, leaders within the local tourism industry feel confident in what lies ahead in 2021.

“The groups are still lining up and a lot of them cancelled or postponed and we’re pushing them into next year,” Ray said. “So once we do get back and the confidence builds and we can meet safely, I feel like we’re going to bounce back, relatively safely. It’s a slow process and it’ll still probably take a couple, two or three years but more towards a normal will happen I think sometime next year.”

Visit Indy is still offering up to 50% off hotel stays for Indiana residents. You can visit www.visitindy.com for more information.

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