On a whole, 2020 was a downright miserable year for hotels. Over those 12 months, hotels recorded their lower occupancy rates on record as the pandemic put an end to tourism and business travel.
But now, things may be looking up for hotels. The widespread availability of coronavirus vaccines has allowed for travel restrictions and quarantine mandates to be lifted in many states. And as the economy stages its own recovery, we could see a major uptick in leisure travel as restless Americans hit the road or board flights in search of a much-needed change of scenery.
But while many hotels may indeed see much stronger occupancy rates during the latter part of 2021, some hotels may have more of a prolonged recovery.
Conference centers could lag behind
Some hotels are designed to traditionally serve as conference centers -- the bulk of their amenities are centered on meeting rooms more so than swimming pools and child-friendly playgrounds. Others get most of their bookings by being convention center-adjacent.
During normal times, conference centers see their share of reservations. But during the pandemic, not only did business travel virtually come to a halt, but conferences were by and large canceled so as to not morph into superspreader events. And while the idea of holding conferences is looking safer by the day, it's also fair to say that generally speaking, we're just not there yet.
At this point, a lot of companies have yet to bring their staff back to the office (though many are currently working on that transition). Before businesses can even think about holding conferences and gathering people from offices across the country under the same roof, we first need to see how office life works in a not-quite-post-pandemic world.
In other words, a natural first step on the road to scheduling conferences would be to wait for office building occupancy rates to tick upward, see how that shakes out with regard to coronavirus spread, and only then start making plans to gather hundreds or thousands of people together.
As such, conferences are, for the most part, still a ways off, and so the hotels that cater to them may not bounce back as quickly as resort hotels that cater to leisure travelers and families.