MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – A leading hotel group claims that 2020 was the worst record in the travel industry and that the economic recovery will be very slow in the new year.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) says the financial impact of COVID-19 is nine times worse for the travel industry than 9/11. The group’s prospects for 2021 says hotel occupancy across the country fell 33% from 2019 to 2020.
This is more than the 25% reduction on the Grand Strand, according to the survey by Taylor Damonte, who is the director of the Brittain Center for Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.
“There was certainly a serious impact on our business, but we are a car destination,” said Damonte.
According to the AHLA perspective, hotel occupancy is projected to recover only slightly from 44% in 2020 to 52% in 2021. This means that almost half of all US hotel rooms would still be empty.
The forecast is even darker for business trips. AHLA says it may not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Damonte says it probably won’t hurt the Grand Strand as much because it’s mainly a beach destination.
“We are not primarily dependent on convention travel and certainly not on business travel,” he said. “We have a little bit of that in the Myrtle Beach area, but it is not our main source.”
AHLA also states that the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is an important factor for 56% of Americans who plan to travel for leisure this year. The prospect says that 48% of people surveyed said that their comfort in staying in a hotel is linked to vaccination in three ways: when most Americans are vaccinated, when the vaccine is available to the general public or if they are vaccinated personally .
Even so, the study shows concern for the future of the travel industry. AHLA’s CEO says COVID-19 has eliminated a decade of job growth.
Damonte also says that hotel owners of all sizes can face financial problems if tourism doesn’t recover soon.
“Sources of revenue need to come back if our real estate values continue to be maintained,” said Damonte.
AHLA projects that an additional 200,000 hotel jobs will be added this year, but that would still be about 500,000 less than before the pandemic, when around 2.3 million employees worked in accommodation across the country in 2019.