COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The number of hotel rooms used in Columbia and Jefferson City made steep drops in April, mirroring a loss of business seen across the state.
Numbers from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau show a drop of 40 percent in April compared to April 2019. The CVB reported 21.5 percent of hotel rooms sold in April 2020, down from the 61.3 percent seen the year prior.
Jefferson City Visitors Bureau saw a 29 percent decrease in occupancy rates in April compared to this time last year, falling from 63 percent to 34.5 percent.
Columbia CVB marketing director Megan McConachie said the department had to change its operations in the weeks of the pandemic that stymied travel across the country. McConachie said the department put off planned projects and sales travel to focus on trying to help hotels affected.
"We haven't been selling as much to visitors as we normally would," McConachie said. "We've turned inward to connect with those partners."
The Missouri Division or Tourism reported a 25 percent drop in occupancy rates statewide for March 2020 compared to last year. April numbers were still unavailable.
Many hotel operators have announced furloughs across the state. Atrium Hospitality told state authorities it furloughed 108 workers at Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. The group announced hundreds of other jobs at properties across Missouri.
"We’re rolling out enhanced safety standards and protocols at our national hotel portfolio, including at the Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Jefferson City," a company spokesperson said. "Developed by specialists in keeping our associates and guests healthy and safe, our higher safety standards meet the recently announced American Hotel & Lodging Association Safe Stay initiative in response to COVID-19."
McConachie expects travel to rebound as social distancing orders continue to roll back, but people will want to do so safely. McConachie said some research shows people are spending more time researching their trips than before.
"There's a lot of pent up demand," McConachie said. "So they are trying to figure out where is it safe to travel, when is it safe to travel. So we want to provide as much guidance as we can around that."
The new guidelines from the AHLA call for all hotels to have hand sanitizer at guest and employee entrances. Hotel workers should also report any presumed cases of COVID-19 at the hotel to local health authorities.