Houston’s struggling hotels preparing for guests to come back

Houston’s struggling hotels preparing for guests to come back
Houston’s struggling hotels preparing for guests to come back

HOUSTON – Houston’s hotels are a massive revenue producer for the city. But like most hospitality industries, it’s struggling financially in a world with COVID-19.

Channel 2 Investigates recently visited some of the city's top hotels and found they were ghost towns, for the most part, with few guests in the lobby, if any at all.

“We are running between 5 and 10% at this time,” said Safet Dokara, who runs the Hotel Alessandra in downtown. The staff wears masks, and guests there are asked to as well, but they aren’t required to. And elevators are restricted to four guests at a time.

Average hotel occupancy has fallen off a cliff in the past couple of months, from an average of 73% this time last year to less than 30% now. And the average daily rate over the same period has been cut in half, from an average of $124 to $62. And all of that lost revenue trickles into everything else in Houston and Harris County.

Right now, nearly all of the Hilton Americas’ business is from the National Guard and other COVID-19 response groups. About 500 employees have been furloughed, though some have been hired back. The rest are waiting for the convention business to return, and that could be a few months away.

And that hotel occupancy tax that pipes millions into the local economy? That revenue stream was down 28% the first three months of the year and is expected to be 75% to 80% less than last year in the next three months.