As Virginia moves towards its third phase of reopening after shutdowns induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, area hotels are starting to see positive signs after months of decimated revenues.
Boar’s Head Resort and the Graduate Charlottesville will be reopening this week, and the new Quirk Hotel, which initially opened in March, reopened earlier this month.
Roy Van Doorn, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association Charlottesville Chapter president, said the local hospitality industry is encouraged by the reopenings after a painful spring.
“By the beginning of the month, all area lodging will be open and operating, which is a sign of an improvement,” he said. “While there’s still brutal numbers, we’re encouraged.”
According to information provided to the Virginia Tourism Corporation by STR, a global firm that provides insights into the hospitality industry, Charlottesville area hotel occupancy in May was at about 27.5%, which was down about 63% from occupancy rates in May 2019. April was the worst month for hotel occupancy in the area, with just 23.4% occupancy, down almost 71% from April 2019.
Area room revenue compared with 2019 was down 85.2% in April and 82.4% in May.
Russ Cronberg, the general manager at Boar’s Head Resort, said after closing in April, the resort decided to wait to reopen until now to provide an environment that was as safe for employees and guests.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there wasn’t a little bit of nervousness in reopening, but it’s excited nervousness,” he said.
All resort personnel will wear face coverings and gloves, and will be subject to a mandatory body temperature checks before each shift, according to the resort’s guidelines. All rooms will be fogged after guests leave, and furniture will be wiped down and sanitized.
“We want to do everything that we can to make our environment as safe as possible,” Cronberg said. “We’re fogging, not just the guest areas, we’re fogging team member areas, we’re fogging offices.”
According to more recent data published by Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy from STR, the hotel industry across the state is experiencing modest improvement.
“We have seen slight improvement in room revenues as well as in rooms sold this week over the last week,” said Professor Vinod Agarwal of the Dragas Center in a news release. “We should brace ourselves for a continued slow rebound as the nation and the Commonwealth largely reopens from COVID-19, however. It will take time for business and leisure travelers to fill rooms again.”
During the week of June 7-13 compared with the same week in 2019, revenues fell 71% and rooms sold fell 58% in the Charlottesville area. The prior week, revenues fell 73% and rooms sold fell 59% compared with 2019.
In the third phase of reopening, the limit on social gatherings raises from 50 people to 250, which Van Doorn said could lead to larger weddings in the area.
“That is a significant contributor to our hotel and lodging industry — wedding guests — and when you take the wedding guests out of the equation, it really changes things,” he said. “… Particularly in spring, summer and fall, that really contributes to economic health. We anticipate that weddings will return in pretty solid numbers in August and thereafter.”
Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Courtney Cacatian said the CACVB planned to start advertising the area again this week, after pausing in March.
“Our target markets are going to initially be North Carolina, where we were advertising this past winter, and we’re seeing some website traffic from Williamsburg and Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach area, so we’re going to open with that as well,” she said. “Then, given that DC and Northern Virginia has been lagging in their reopening, we thought it prudent to wait until July to invite them down here.”
The marketing will focus on activities that can be done easily with social distancing, Cacatian said.
“The wineries have been doing a great job of doing social distancing,” she said. “Outdoor recreation, … outdoor dining, anything that can be done with small groups, and outdoors in particular.”