The State of Hospitality: COVID Edition
Submitted by Julie Ayers, Aprio
Tom Murray, CEO from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority moderated our all-star panel to talk about the hospitality industry in Charlotte. According to the panelists, the outlook does not look sunny and with PPP funding ending and the colder weather arriving the short-term future will be rough….
Tom reviewed several statistics and reminded us that this has been the most damaging event in hospitality history. Tom also reminded us that the employees in this industry are some of the most impacted in the US and since hospitality jobs make up one out of every nine jobs locally it is a considerable impact on our local economy.
Dan Hooks, President of Party Reflections, an event planning company, talked to us about the employees that they had to let go in this pandemic. Their 62-year-old company went from 240 employees to 55 employees within a week. The company was able to obtain PPP funding; however, they have almost spent through those funds and he is wondering if there will be additional government assistance available. At this point it looks like their revenues have been cut in half from 2019 since their best months in the Spring and Fall fell under the limited gathering restrictions. Dan said he used to think “there is no way to stop somebody from getting married” then enter 2020…
Vinay Patel, principal at SREE Hotels, a company with many Charlotte area hotels, shared with us some insight on how the industry is doing. He pointed to closings in the industry such as the iconic Hilton in Times Square that is closing in October as indicative of the trends. Vinay mentioned that when occupancy was the lowest in April, the industry was down 90% that month, there were times that there were more employees in the hotel than guests. While the industry has turned around some the industry predictions are it will be 2024 before it is more stable. Hotels in destination areas are doing better than others, which may help Charlotte if we can become more of a destination.
Kara Taddeo owns VBGB and 8.20, most of the revenue from these companies is based on large events due to their proximity to Live Nation’s outdoor amphitheater and Fillmore music club so they are down 70% in revenue. Kara mentioned that with large concerts and events there is no answer on when they will come back, and we are just waiting on the facts. Currently, 8.2.0 remains closed and Kara is concerned that people may not be ready to dine inside. With the changing weather, people will be less willing to be outside so revenues could drop further. She mentioned the next six months are going to be scarier and they may need to close during January and February.
In the long run, there are some encouraging things in Charlotte such as hotels being built – Grand Bohemian and JW Marriott, restaurants being opened, and hopefully larger events allowed soon. Maybe things will take a turn for this industry…. It was said that we are looking to keep Charlotte’s small business personality, so let’s spend accordingly!