Hotel trade group sounds alarm coronavirus

The head of the American Hotel & Lodging Association
said Wednesday that the coronavirus-related drop in travel has the potential to
be more devastating to hotels than the fallout from 9/11.

“We’re on a path that will be more severe than post 9/11,
more severe than post financial crisis,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of

However, he emphasized that “this could all be turned around
if we continue to spread the message that travel is safe.”

Rogers made the comments in a call with reporters, during which
he also reiterated a statement put out earlier this week by a coalition of 150
travel organizations (including AH&LA) that travel is safe, if people
follow fact-based guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and

The group said hotels in the country have seen a 4.5% drop
in occupancy and a 15% percent decline in revenue. 

Given that more 60% of hotels are small businesses, the
group said many will be operating with negative cash flow, unable to fund
payroll and benefits.

In Seattle, which has the country’s largest cluster of
infections, AH&LA said occupancy has dropped from an average 80% to below

Brian Crawford, AH&LA’s executive vice president and
head of government affairs, called the declines a “self-inflicted wound” based
on travelers canceling meetings and vacations unnecessarily.

“If people can continue to travel and help our economy, we
can avert some of this,” Rogers said.

Crawford said AH&LA is working closely with Congress and
the White House in an effort to get passage of legislation to help small-business
owners weather the crisis by ensuring they have access to capital and credit
markets. They are also pushing for more flexibility on debt repayments.

“We want small-business owners to be able to continue to
employ their employees during this stretch,” said Crawford.

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