KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This July, Kurt Mayo celebrated his 50th year working in the hotel industry. But nothing could have prepared him for what the novel coronavirus would do to the industry.
“It’s really devastating to our industry,” he said. “We’re all working together and we’re gonna pull through it and Kansas City is going to come through it, but it’s going to be a real rough journey.”
Mayo is the executive director of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City. He said hotels cannot stay in business long-term at current levels, let alone hire back laid off or furloughed employees.
Data from the lodging association showed July’s occupancy rate around the Kansas City metropolitan area was 43 percent. Last July, the occupancy rate was at 70 percent.
So far in 2020, the occupancy rate is 39 percent. For the same time period of 2019, the occupancy rate hit 64 percent.
Hotels are getting creative to bring in business. The Raphael rented rooms as offices for nearly three months. Others have followed suit listing daytime rentals on websites like hotelsbyday.com and dayuse.com.
Loews, which just opened in June, is giving guests perks through the end of the year: a $25 voucher at the hotel restaurant, free parking and free late checkout.
Plus rates around the metro are low: averaging under $90 a night in July 2020, compared to $105 in July 2019.
Jason Fulvi, the president and CEO of VisitKC, said health and safety are top concerns for travelers which is why one reason his office launched the “KC Clean Commitment.”
Participating businesses sign a pledge to maintain and follow certain hygienic guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. The program is based on the honor system. Many hotels have made the pledge.
“[KC Clean Commitment] gives us an opportunity to let, not only our visitors know our destination as a whole is taking this seriously, but our locals too. Now you know, when you go to the museum or a restaurant or that oil change place, they’re taking it seriously and providing you a safe experience,” Fulvi said.
VisitKC specializes in booking large conventions in the city. Limits on gatherings within Kansas City, Missouri, have forced at least 135 conventions to cancel. Fulvi said that boils down to the region losing $200 million in economic impact.
Instead of marketing the city to convention planners, Fulvi’s team has switched strategies to market Kansas City to Kansas Citians.
“Everybody could use a little getaway and you can do a little getaway in your own hometown,” Fulvi said. “It starts there and as we continue to build upon that, then we get this business back to work. And hopefully, we get all 48,000 of those employees in the hospitality industry back to work as well.”
Mayo said collaborations between hoteliers and groups such as VisitKC are going to be what saves the hotel and hospitality industry. He looks forward to the day business travelers and conventions return in earnest. He said even after 50 years, he still isn’t ready to leave the industry.
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