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Local Hotel Industry Bounces Back Following Pandemic

Early indicators seem to suggest that the local hotel industry is on its way to recovery following the covid-19 pandemic.

According to Ron Kirkland, executive director for the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association, hotels in the Williamsburg area had a stellar performance this past Memorial Day weekend, particularly on the Saturday night of the holiday weekend. While exact figures aren’t readily available, on Saturday, May 29, the association saw a roughly 85 percent hotel room occupancy rate, with the industry raking in more than $1 million in just one day.

“That was the single best day we’ve ever had in Williamsburg ever,” Kirkland said. “It was fantastic. It was the type of weekend we needed to get back into the groove.”

Williamsburg’s hotels made more on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend this year than they did in the entire month of April 2020 when the pandemic first began and forced a shutdown of practically the entire state of Virginia.

In April 2019, Williamsburg’s hotels were at roughly 50 percent daily occupancy. A year later, during the height of the pandemic, the occupancy rate was just over 9 percent daily.

“It was really bad,” Kirkland said.

Daily occupancy rates remained low for much of 2020. As more people become vaccinated and are more comfortable with traveling again, rates have increased steadily. This past April, the daily occupancy rate for Williamsburg’s hotels and motels was 42 percent, which is more than a 1,000 percent increase from April 2020.

“It was nearly back to what it was in 2019,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland cited a number of factors for the hotel recovery, including easy access to vaccines, Williamsburg’s outdoor attractions, and a strong marketing campaign.

“There’s also a pent-up demand for travel after being stuck at home,” Kirkland said.

Other localities in Hampton Roads also saw an increase in hotel stays this spring. According to a report by Smith Travel Research (STR), hotel revenue increased in March 2021 by 134 percent in Newport News/Hampton and 466 percent in Virginia Beach.

Kirkland predicts the trend will continue throughout the summer, especially as the 4th of July holiday approaches. However, like most industries, a lack of workers may pose a challenge. The hotel industry is in particular need of housekeepers and maintenance workers as well as front desk staff.

“The biggest difficulty will be providing the level of service people are used to,” Kirkland said. “Until we can get folks back to work, it will have an impact on how we conduct business.”

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