Hotel industry says it’s been decimated by Covid, pleads with congress for help

Jacksonville, Fla. — Local hotel owners are pleading with Congress to bail them out or risk losing thousands of jobs.

”The hotel industry has been decimated by the Covid19 health crisis”. That’s how a letter dated, Aug. 18, to members of congress begins.

It’s signed by hundreds of hotel owners and lodging groups including the organization Nicole Chapman works for, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

”We need those occupancies to go up, so we’re able to bring back our employees,” said Chapman.

According to the letter, the economic impact on the hotel industry is estimated to be nine times greater than the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The hospitality industry says its sector has already lost 4.8 million jobs since February.

Many U.S. hotels are considered small businesses.”Before this pandemic started average occupancy in Jacksonville, at least, was around mid-70s. Right now, we’re seeing it in the 50s,” said Chapman.

Chapman said beach hotels are doing OK as families look to get away in the summer but hotels that depend on business travel are hurting.

”When occupancies are higher, rates go higher, as with anything in life as demand goes up the rates go up,” said Chapman.

The hotel industry is urging Congress to help through the HEALS and HEROES acts but on top of that, they’re pleading for commercial debt relief which will help hotels keep their doors open and lights on.

Another piece of legislation called the HOPE Act, to help small businesses, has already been introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers including local democratic representative Al Lawson.

Chapman is hoping these possible solutions will get passed sooner rather than later as those in her industry patiently wait for a rebirth.”We are all hopeful that when this is over, people have been cooped up so long that they’ll be willing and ready to travel and get back out there and explore,” said Chapman.