SELINSGROVE — According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), the hotel industry is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic that had a devastating impact on the hospitality industry.
Kelly Fisher has worked in the hotel industry for 30 years and has seen things fall drastically during the pandemic, but said travelers are now venturing more.
“It’s going slow, but I have a feeling it’s coming back,” said Fisher, general manager of the 70-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Monroe Township that opened last March.
Scott Shaffer had to close the Selinsgrove Inn for two months during the pandemic, but saw room occupancy increase late last year.
“If last fall is any indication, it’s recovering,” he said.
Despite the good news, Shaffer has decided to retire and put up for sale the Selinsgrove Inn he opened on Market Street in 2006.
Andrew Miller, executive director of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitor’s Center is monitoring room taxes collected by hotels in Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties and said he sees positive moves.
“The current room tax is 84 percent of what it was in 2019.
It’s going in the right direction,” he says.
Another indication that people are traveling through the tripoint is room sales from overnight stays and the optimism of lodging operators in the region who expect to fill more beds this year, Miller said.
In 2020, he said, room sales fell to $21.98 million from $34.49 million the year before. In 2021, room sales in the Valley rose to $30.06 million.
AHLA’s 2022 State of the Hotel Industry Report shows that U.S. hotels have lost a total of $111.8 billion in room revenue over the past two years.i
The group also forecasts that hotel occupancy and room revenues will approach 2019 levels, but revenues from meeting room rental and purchases of food and beverages are not expected to increase.
Leisure, not business travel, will continue to drive the recovery. In 2019, business travelers represented the largest part of the room turnover, namely 52.5 percent. By 2022, business travel will only make up 43.6 percent, according to the association.
“Hotels have faced tremendous challenges over the past two years, and we are still a long way from a full recovery,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO.
“The slow return from business travel and fewer meetings and events continue to have a significant negative impact on our industry. The growth of leisure and ‘bleisure’ (people who combine leisure and business travel) is shifting our industry, and hotels will continue to evolve to meet the needs of these ‘new’ travelers.”
Fisher said she sees a change in room booking patterns.
Pre-pandemic, hotels she operated were “always sold out” for corporate clients Monday through Wednesday, she said. Thursdays have always been the least booked and weekends have traditionally been overtaken by holidaymakers and now Thursday through Sunday bookings have increased significantly.
Fisher credits the increased protections to the colleges and local businesses that have enlisted outside help to address the labor shortage.
In that regard, she is hopeful that the personnel problems will also decrease.
“In the past three days, I’ve gotten 20 job applications,” Fisher said.