Hotel Industry Struggles To Recover As Pandemic Continues

CHARLOTTE, NC – As the pandemic continues and some businesses slowly recover, Charlotte’s hospitality industry continues to struggle.

It’s the most glaring sign that we’re still locked in a pandemic; there are few passing cars during rush hour in Uptown. Restaurants are empty, and visitors are hard to find. 

“People are still being cautious about traveling,” said Kayla Jones, traveling from Chicago for work. 

“Very few people. Everything is pretty scattered,” said Chris Grenier. 

Grenier and his wife are visiting for the night from Massachusetts. They’re staying in an Uptown hotel. 

“Right now it’s pretty low key. I’ve only seen three or four people in the lobby,” said Grenier.

According to a Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority report, half of the 84,000 people unemployed in Mecklenburg county work in the hospitality industry. 

Hotel occupancy is at historic lows. 

On a pre-pandemic Thursday night, Uptown hotels would be pretty full with about 75% of their space occupied by business travelers, but now, occupancy is as low as 10%. 

“It’s pretty dire times right now,” said Vince Chelena, the head of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association. 

He says hotels located along the interstates are running around 50-60% occupancy. Uptown locations, which rely on conventions and business travel are suffering. 

“The shift is really taking place in how we manage and stay afloat financially during these difficult times,” said Chelena. 

According to a Wall Street Journal estimation, between 19 and 36 percent of all business trips could disappear as companies choose not to travel. 

“When you think about Mecklenburg County and the loss that we received in travel, that is impacting the city of Charlotte.  That is impacting Mecklenburg county and the state coffers of North Carolina,” said Chelena.

Chelena says area hotels are hoping for further financial relief and are preparing for a hiring surge when travel picks back up. 

“The most difficult thing we’re going through right now is seeing our coworkers out of work,” said Chelena.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. According to the CRVA, weekend travel is nearing 2019 numbers.  And promising news about a vaccine could lead to more travel in early 2021.