Could the hard-hit hospitality industry be raring to make a comeback after being nearly decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you ask Hyatt Hotels CEO Mark Hoplamazian, the answer is “yes.” In fact, Hoplamazian is quite bullish on a recovery for the hospitality industry, and as he told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” recently. He believes it will be driven by the widespread availability of vaccines and return to normalcy soon. He even expects there to be a boom in travel as Americans use the vacation time they saved up over the past year to begin traveling again.
The hospitality industry suffered mightily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, about a year ago after the pandemic really began to uproot normalcy as we knew it, hotel bookings were only at about 22 percent occupancy in April. This year, they’re already ticking upwards. In fact, they’re currently hovering at around 50 percent occupancy, about double what it was a year ago. While much of this uptick so far in 2021 is believed to largely be coming from spring break travel, there are signs that business meetings and conferences are starting to show signs of coming back as well.
Still a Long Way to Go
Hoplamazian has been the head of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels since 2006, and he claims the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry was the worst he’s seen to date, even outpacing the fallout from the Great Recession that began just a few years after he took the helm of the hotel empire. He says Hyatt had to lay off around 1,300 workers last May. The same rings true for the rest of the hospitality industry.
Overall, the industry is still about 3.5 million workers below where it was in pre-pandemic times, although the sector’s unemployment rate is a few percentage points down from January’s 15.9 percent to its present 13.5 percent.
Vaccines Provide Hope
While vaccines are providing hope to people around the world that a return to life as we used to know it isn’t much further away, it’s also providing hope to the most hardest-hit sectors, like travel and hospitality. When you consider that tens of millions of Americans have been unwilling to take the risk of traveling or vacationing for the past year, there’s likely to be some pent-up desire to do so once they become fully inoculated or things return to enough of a normal where they feel comfortable doing so once again.
If you take Hoplamazian at his word, this day isn’t far off — and when it comes, Americans eager to get away won’t be the only ones driving a return to hotels. Conventions and business travel will follow, ideally continuing to drive the sector in its recovery. The hospitality industry still has a ways to go in its return, but its return looks more and more imminent by the day.