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WASHINGTON (August 31, 2020) – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) today released an analysis on the economic and human struggle  of the hotel industry six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of employees still furloughed or laid off and travel demand lagging far behind normal levels.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Four out of 10 hotel employees are still not working.

  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of hotels remain at or below 50 percent occupancy, which is below the threshold at which most hotels can break even and pay debt.
  • Consumer travel remains at all-time low, with only 33 percent of Americans reporting they have traveled overnight for leisure or vacation since March and just 38 percent saying they are likely to travel by the end of the year.
  • Urban hotels are suffering the most and facing collapse with cripplingly low occupancies of 38 percent, significantly below the national average.
  • COVID-19 has left hotels in major cities across the country struggling to stay in business, resulting in massive job loss and dramatically reducing state and local tax revenue for 2020 and beyond.

Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, said the prolonged economic impact of the pandemic has taken an incredible toll on the hotel industry, with no sign of a recovery in sight.

“While hotels have seen an uptick in demand during the summer compared to where we were in April, occupancy rates are nowhere near where they were a year ago. Thousands of hotels can’t afford to pay their mortgages and are facing the possibility of foreclosure and closing their doors permanently,” said Rogers.

“We are incredibly worried about the fall and what the drop in demand will mean for the industry and the millions of employees we have been unable to bring back. The job loss will be devasting to our industry, our communities, and the overall American economy. We need urgent, bipartisan action from Congress now.”

As a result of the sharp and sustained drop in travel demand, industry leaders say hotels are now facing the harsh reality of deciding whether to close their doors permanently. Hoteliers are urging Congress to move swiftly to help the industry through a targeted extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, establishing a commercial mortgage backed securities market relief fund, and making structural changes to the Main Street Lending Facility to ensure hotel companies can access the program.

“Our industry is in crisis. Thousands of hotels are in jeopardy of closing forever, and that will have a ripple effect throughout our communities for years to come,” said Rogers. “We need help urgently to keep hotels open so that our industry and our employees can survive and recover from this public health crisis.”

 

 
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MARKHAM, Ontario and TORONTO, Sept. 1, 2020To create instant and ongoing communication between hoteliers and travelers, as well as internal staff operations, Maestro PMS, the leader in cloud and on-premise property-management system solutions for independent hotels and luxury resorts, conference centers, vacation rentals, and multi-property groups, has partnered with Fetchto provide a digital hub to enhance guest engagement, communication, and operations. Using Fetch, hoteliers will have another third-party option to access  everything they need to embrace contactless, digital guest interactions while maintaining a consistent, high-quality experience.

“The guest experience is evolving, and communication will continue to advance once COVID subsides,” said Warren Dehan, Maestro president. “Through the Maestro suite of products we offer a collection of contact free and guest engagement tools, and we are delighted to integrate with Fetch to expand the offerings to hoteliers giving them ability to engage with customers 24/7 throughout their entire journey ― before, during, and after the stay. Fetch app enables hoteliers to capture every engagement opportunity through 24/7 guest outreach and improved analytics, while also streamlining communications between property staff. Using email and/or SMS, we are digitally linking guests to staff and meeting their every need without physical contact.”

Over the last few years, contactless check in and check out have been gaining momentum as guests continue to choose to skip the front desk. Since COVID's appearance, the technology has become so important it can sway guest bookings. Communicating with these guests can be a challenge, but Fetch makes it simple. The solution enables hotels to interact with guests using digital avenues, such as email or SMS/text messaging. For example, guests booking at a property powered by Fetch are sent messages at strategic times urging them to provide feedback after booking a stay, checking into their room, or upon check out, for example. By reaching out when guests are most likely checking their personal devices, Fetch increases the chances of a response from guests, keeping them in closer contact with hotel operators and maintaining consistency.

Fetch also equips hotels with a full guest-engagement suite capable of organizing and sending surveys, collecting and presenting guest analytics, two-way messaging, and a 24/7 chat concierge linked directly to staff members. Through this suite of tools, Fetch is designed to help hoteliers find opportunities to improve the guest experience or attract more guests through proactive surveys and two-way messaging. Fetch can also provide real-time alerts and a full analytics suite capable of providing actionable data on guest satisfaction, hotel performance, and current trends.

"Our goal was to create a one-stop-shop for communication between hoteliers and guests, and also within a hotel's team," said Russell Silver, founder and CEO of Fetch. "We were looking for inefficient processes, such as manually generated shift reports, and built them right into Fetch as features hoteliers can schedule to generate automatically. We wanted to give operators a way to improve communication and operations in an efficient, service-oriented manner.

“Through this integration partnership with Maestro, Fetch will have the opportunity to work with the more than 800 hotels integrated with Maestro PMS, and improve communication across the industry while preserving the key service elements that make hospitality so special,” he said. “We have a mission to put everything hotels need to stay in contact with guests and employees in one place, and Maestro is helping us deliver.”

In addition to helping hotels maintain social distancing between team members and guests, Fetch is designed to help hotels obtain crucial guest data about their stay. If hotels can receive complaints and react to them fast enough, hotel operators can alter or remove a potentially negative online review before it is posted.

Toronto’s Town Inn is one of the first properties to benefit from the Maestro/Fetch integration. The property’s Director of Revenue and Sales Daniel Seifer said integrating Fetch into his property’s existing Maestro PMS was seamless. Using both systems, Seifer said his extended-stay hotel can maintain contact with guests and employees, keeping them updated about the status of the property. He also said that in some cases the digital aspect of guest communication has allowed for greater insight into how to improve his property.

"In many cases, we find some guests can be reluctant to address certain issues over the phone, or at the front desk,” Seifer said. “When prompted to provide responses over email, however, we received a lot of good, useful feedback we could apply to our property. People are sometimes more open if they aren't speaking directly to someone. Ultimately, it's fine with us, we want to make sure our guests are happy, and Fetch helps us find ways to improve."

For more information on Maestro PMS, visit maestropms.com. For more information on Fetch, visit www.getfetch.ca/.

 
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WASHINGTON – (August 26, 2020) – A new national survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) conducted by Morning Consult shows that a number of improvements to health and sanitation protocol at U.S. hotels would have considerable impact on guests' comfort levels staying there, with the top three including face coverings for employees (87% a lot/some impact) and guests (85%), suspending daily housekeeping of rooms (86%), and utilizing technology to reduce direct contact (85%), are the top priorities among frequent travelers to staying in hotels during this pandemic. These priorities align with AHLA’s Safe Stay Guest Checklist and CDC recommendations distributed on behalf of the industry. 

Other popular measures to increase a guest’s comfort level include adding transparent barriers at front desks, concierge or valet stations (82%), signage for washing hands, distancing and PPE (80%), temporarily closing amenities (77%) and floor markings to promote social distancing (77%).  The overwhelming majority of respondents indicate that these protocols would impact their comfort level, with eight out of ten (81%) frequent travelers responding that they feel comfortable staying in a hotel that has implemented the enhanced cleaning and safety protocols called for in AHLA’s Safe Stay initiative.

Among the key findings of travelers staying in hotels five or more nights per year:

  • Cleanliness Is the Top Priority: Out of a list of nine options, frequent travelers most often chose cleanliness as the most important factor when determining their next hotel stay, and 81% of travelers are more comfortable staying at hotels now with enhanced protocols and standards implemented. 
  • Guests Prefer Housekeeping by Request Only: Nearly nine out of ten (88%) frequent travelers say that limiting in-room housekeeping to “by request only” would increase their comfort level. Nearly three-in-five (58%)  guests do not want daily housekeeping; and 58% would not be comfortable with housekeeping staff entering their room without advance permission.
  • The Use of Face Coverings is a Priority: The majority of guests (62%) are a lot more comfortable if hotels require face coverings and 66% of guests are a lot more comfortable if hotels require employees to wear face coverings and gloves.

The pandemic has decimated the hotel industry as travel has slowed significantly throughout the last few months. The fall looks to be equally as challenging, with only one-third of frequent travelers (33%) expecting their next hotel stay to be within the next three months, 18 percent within three to six months, and 25 percent in 6-12 months.

“The hotel industry united to enhance our already rigorous cleaning protocols for the health and safety of our guests, and it’s working,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “It’s more important than ever that guests follow our Safe Stay Guest Checklist so they understand what is expected of them no matter where they stay. Travelers across the country looking to include a hotel stay in their upcoming vacation plans know that with the implementation of Safe Stay, hotels will be safer and cleaner than ever before.”

AHLA recently released the “Safe Stay Guest Checklist” for guests on how to travel safely while also creating a standardized safety experience nationwide, which includes several requirements such as the use of face coverings and limiting daily room cleaning. This checklist is part of AHLA’s Safe Stay guidelines, an industry-wide, enhanced set of health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe and clean environment for all hotel guests and employees.

 
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August 21, 2020

During the Covid 19 pandemic, hoteliers have faced an unprecedented period of challenged cash flows amid restricted operations. The American Hotel and Lodging Association is now saying 1 in 4 hoteliers in the U.S. cannot make their monthly mortgage payments. While there is some relief from government programs here in Canada, the situation is not much better.

Western Hotelier caught up with Mark Kay, president of CFO Capital to discuss what options are out there for hoteliers in today’s challenging climate.

CFO Capital, incorporated in 2004, is a national commercial mortgage brokerage firm with head office in Markham Ontario housing housing a team of former Commercial Real Estate Bankers comprising of analysts and business developers.The company also has an office in Vancouver led by Trevor Scott and has a presence in East Coast led by Ian Hurst.

“CFO's mission” says Kay, “has always been providing a consistent flow of competitive capital to all industry sectors with a focus and passion to the Hotel sector. In early 2000 there were under 10 lenders supporting hotel industry and prior to Pandemic we have reached over 50 active institutional partners”.

The key problem hoteliers face today, says Kay, is that two-thirds of hospitality lending is on a moratorium while only one third of lenders are still active providing financing for construction, term and refinance.

Right now, hoteliers can get construction loans up to 65% Loan to Cost (LTC), the loan amount divided by the construction cost, with values stabilizing over a 3-4yr period to get over the COVID bump.

For new loans, Term/Refinance up to 65% loan-to-value (LTV), the loan amount compared to the expected market value of the completed project (values defined as 3-4 yrs stabilized) with inclusion of working capital to cover the burn rate.

“There's lot of frustration to the lack of access to working capital from EDC/BDC programs which hoteliers nation wide desperately need due to the forced shut down of provincial and international travel that has an obvious direct correlation to revenue. The wage subsidy programs definitely assist but not nearly sufficient enough to cover bank principal and interest payments, taxes and so on... once the bank deferrals come to a halt”.

This liquidity crisis is an industry wide issue for a broad segment of owners.  “2020 demand is not anticipated to return to levels where owners can sustain a cash flow positive position. In the absence of financial support from government sponsored programs through the financial institutions, hotel owners will not be able to sustain operations”. 

Hopefully, says Kay, as an alternative or in collaboration with the fed program, institutional regulators may allow for the further extension of principal and interest until the provinces fully open which will assist in the liquidity.

There are some other measures, however, that hoteliers can take such as the temporary solution of a bridge loan.

“In anticipation for a demand of bridge capital required for the hotel industry we have been working with lending partners to provide first and second mortgages, 6-18 months as well as alternative security structures in lieu of registered 2nd mortgages for those that require immediate relief. It comes at a higher cost of capital but it's an avenue to help bridge the working capital”.

Despite the liquidity crisis brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic, CFO Capital has been very active securing new financing deals in the hotel sector. So while these are clearly challenging times, there is some light on the horizon.

 

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