The coronavirus pandemic has been raging for over a year now, and it's impacted hotels in a profound way. Hotel occupancy rates plunged to record lows in 2020, and while there's reason to be hopeful that bookings will pick up once coronavirus vaccines become more widely available, it's also fair to say hotels have a long way to go before revenue returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Making matters more difficult for hotels is the fact that certain locales imposed added restrictions on travelers during the pandemic. New York City, for example, imposed a mandate last June stating that visitors from states with high rates of COVID-19 must quarantine upon arrival. But now, that mandate has expired for domestic travelers, and the city just announced that international travelers who are asymptomatic upon arrival no longer need to self-isolate either. This means it just became a lot easier to land in New York and take in the city's sights -- and that local hotels could see a much-needed surge in bookings.
Hotels need a lifeline
New York City has long been a tourist hub, but quarantine mandates have kept visitors out of the city for much of the past year. That lack of tourism forced a number of prominent New York hotels to close their doors on a permanent basis, while others have struggled immensely.
In fact, several New York hotels saw such a decline in revenue that they fell behind on their property tax obligations, and some hotels have been battling with the city in an effort to seek forgiveness for associated penalties.
In December, the occupancy rate for New York hotel rooms was 36%, a sharp decline from a year prior, when it sat at 88%. During that time, hotels also had to practically give rooms away to lure in guests. Average room rates that month sat at $130 per night -- a major drop from the $303 per night guests forked over a year earlier.
By making it easier for travelers to visit New York, the hope is that tourism will pick back up nicely in the coming months. In turn, that could not only help boost hotel revenue but also help other struggling New York City businesses.
What may also help New York City is the fact that Broadway is making plans to open back up come September. That would give visitors a reason to pop into the city for a short stay, and not having to quarantine upon arrival makes weekend jaunts a possibility once again.
Of course, New York City itself may have a long recovery ahead as it continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic. The city's unemployment rate is notably higher than the national average, due in part to the large number of jobs the hard-hit hospitality industry has shed. And both residential and office buildings are looking at record vacancies as city residents have stayed away and employers have kept workers remote. But this recent change is a step in the right direction and one that could benefit not just hotels but the city as a whole.