NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — The hospitality industry has been hit pretty hard during the COVID-19 crisis this includes hotels that are struggling to survive.
Senior Director of Operations for KHG hotels Alex Jerde said that since March, business has basically been non-existent and now the group is calling out to local officials for support.
“Devastating is how I would describe what has happened,” said Jerde.
Hotels across Northwest Arkansas close to empty for months during the coronavirus pandemic.
“No weddings anywhere, no baseball games, the University of Arkansas does all kinds of track and band camp and now there is nothing.”
KHG hotels oversee about a dozen hotels across Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.
Jerde said he has seen 80% of the company’s revenue disappear.
“We’re not getting assistance from anywhere, hotels are franchised based. They are not owned by the brand like most people think so we don’t have bailouts from the brand.”
Molly Rawn, the CEO of Experience Fayetteville, said there’s also been a huge loss in the Hotel, Motel and Restaurant taxes collected. That money is used by the convention and visitors bureau for marketing efforts to attract people to the city and to Parks and Recreation.
She states: “To put in perspective how significant of an impact this has had on the tourism industry, hotel collections of the HMR tax are down 85% for April of this year, over the same time period in 2019.”
Rawn continues: “The restriction on out of state travelers from staying in hotels and motels certainly led to a decrease in overnight stays, but as the state moves into Phase 2 and more people feel comfortable traveling while still following best health practices, I believe we’ll see overnight stays become more frequent.”
Jerde said 300 of his employees are out of work and there’s no relief in sight.
“The one thing that you can never get back is the revenue that you’ve lost over the last several months. It’s like spoiled fruit, once it’s gone it’s gone.”
Jerde wants local officials to take a look at how they can help hotels financially during this pandemic. He also hopes people feel more comfortable using hotels as we move into phase two.
“We are very optimistic that those numbers are going to go up but with any operations, you have to get to a certain level before you start to make money and we are well below that right now.”