Hotels struggling to recover from pandemic

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — People in the hotel industry can usually predict a busy weekend based on past trends, but the pandemic has left everything up in the air, putting hotels at risk.

“Never in a lifetime. If you asked me 6 months ago or 8 months ago, I’d say ‘impossible,'” says Urbana Comfort Suites Co-owner Effendi Fendi.

But the impossible happened.

“The second week of March, we saw our occupancy down to single digits,” says Fendi.

Bookings are back up now for him, but not steadily. It’s mainly summer construction crews in town for long-term work. But what about the rest of the year?

Cancelled U of I family events, limited football capacity, and no tailgating means a busy season might be gone.

Fendi says he and his staff members have had to roll with the punches for months to adjust to big changes, but not being able to foresee the future to plan ahead for busy weekends like they usually do is a big stress. People aren’t in any rush to reserve a room.

“A lot of reservations happen in the past 24 hours. People don’t really plan ahead of time anymore,” says Fendi. “From a hotel perspective, we are not going to see this until 2023.”

Because of that long road to recovery, Fendi has reduced room rates by 25%, and furloughed staff by 50% to make ends meet.

On a larger scale, Champaign-Urbana Hotel & Lodging Association Vice President Dan Rust says, “With no solid revenue coming in now…or projected to for the rest of the year…hotel owners are scrambling to find cash to cover each month’s expenses…we are going to see hotels close up and employees will not be called back.”

But Fendi says he does have people walking through his doors, and is hopeful.

“It’s been tough in the past. It’s going to be a little but harder this time. We’ll just wait and see.”

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