Dozens of hotel CEOs are asking President Donald Trump to help their beleaguered industry by providing them money from the Main Street Lending Program, a $600 billion COVID-19 relief program aimed at small and midsize businesses that has only provided about $2 billion dollars in loans thus far.
In a Thursday letter, the executives, including Arne Sorenson, CEO of Bethesda-based Marriott International, the largest hotel chain in the world, argued that the program should be expanded rather than let nearly $600 billion “sit idle and go unused.”
The hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic; in Maryland. Employment in the industry was down 22.7% in August as compared to August 2019, lower than any other industry. However, employment in the hospitality industry has been steadily increasing since April, when there were nearly 50% fewer leisure and hospitality jobs in Maryland than there had been the previous year.
Still, the situation is dire. Nationally, according to the letter, “three out of every 10 hotel employees are now furloughed or laid off and more than two-thirds of hotels report that they will only be able to last six more months at current projected revenue and occupancy levels absent any further relief.”
Amy Rohrer, president and CEO of the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association, said that the national numbers are in line with what those in the lodging industry are observing in Maryland. Additionally, according to Smith Travel Research, statewide occupancy was down 50% and statewide revenue was down 40% for the month of August, “which is not a point where hotels are breaking even and able to pay debt,” she says.
Rohrer said relief is especially necessary as hotels prepare for the winter — typically a slower season for the Maryland lodging industry. With no additional relief, Rohrer said, hotels will have to lay off more staff and decide if closure, whether it be permanent or temporary, is the best option.
Some have already had to face this difficult decision; the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, for example, has been closed since late March and has pushed back its planned July reopening indefinitely.
The lodging industry is hopeful Congress eventually will provide additional PPP loans, Rohrer said. She sees the Main Street Lending Program as a means of keeping hotels afloat until then.
“We are grateful for grants that have been made available through various counties and the state,” she said, “but additional relief is needed to save hotel jobs and enable recovery for our struggling industry.”