HOTELS DURING COVID – WHAT IS HAPPENING?
The assumption has been that hotels are eager for business after months of empty rooms. Many have thought it would be a buyers’ market with an abundance of deals. No? Surely the rates can’t be higher than pre-COVID? Sadly, the hotel market is like the housing market, the supermarket, and the meat market...prices are higher than ever!
When the pandemic hit, every conference organizer, business traveler, and vacationer swiftly canceled their hotel rooms. Many were able to do so without financial ramifications citing Force Majeure...and that was valid. Was.
Once things started to open again, organizations, business travelers and vacationers flooded the hotels with requests to rebook. Anxious to get back to life, this created a supply & demand situation fully in favor of the hotels. They can charge whatever they want! And why wouldn’t they? They have a lot of time to make up for! Yet, service levels are down (due to lack of personnel), menus are shorter, and choices are fewer. Heard around the world is “Sorry. Covid.” And again...valid.
The tide will turn and eventually things will even out. We certainly don’t want swings either way. A hotel buyer’s market typically occurs during a down economy and no one wants that. In the meantime, here are some important tips when contracting your hotel room blocks:
The hotel salespeople are your friends. Don’t beat them up. They want what you want – a win-win contract. They have their own stakeholders to answer to. And they want to create and maintain a friendly relationship with you. Be nice.
When booking your room block in the midst of a pandemic, have a robust Force Majeure clause that includes the words “pandemic” and “epidemic”, however, if you book your room block during a pandemic and then need to cancel, there will be pushback from the hotel with the general thought that you knew what you were getting into.
If you must cancel, consider rebooking your program to dates within 12 months of your original dates at the same hotel. They will be more likely to be responsive and helpful in making that happen.
Accept that the rates are higher. If you can wait, they may come down but like the end of COVID, we don’t know when. And remember when booking now for ANY date in the future, you are getting rates based on what is happening today.
Availability is tight. Even years from now. Everything came to a standstill for many months and now the floodgates are open so don’t be surprised that the dates you want in 2024 are already booked. If you can be flexible on dates and pattern (Sun-Tuesday instead of Tuesday-Thursday, for instance), you will have better luck in both rates and availability. August and September have historically been months with the best rates and availability.
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