COVID-related travel restrictions and lockdowns have caused some serious losses for the hotel industry. We recently talked to Tracy Prigmore, Founder of TLTsolutions, about Waldorf’s Hampton Inn and Marriott Courtyard, the pandemic, and the financial resources they accessed.
“Our business was dramatically affected,” said Prigmore. “Mid-March, when the stay-at-home orders were announced, things changed overnight. People couldn’t travel, and meetings were cancelled. We had to refund reservations and any scheduled events. Then we attempted to reschedule, but the pandemic became much longer, so those were cancelled again or never rescheduled.”
The hotels had to cut costs quickly in order to survive financially. That meant furloughing some employees and depending on those who were left to do multiple jobs. All food and beverages, including the breakfast buffet and bistro were shut down; they are just now opening back up.
Prigmore said, “When all of this happened, there were questions about whether to stay open or close. We did an analysis and found that it was best to stay open, even though we were losing money.” They decided it was better to maintain a base of employees than to have to start all over again. There were also the fixed costs like insurance, utilities, and taxes that weren’t going away. Additionally, by staying open they were able to serve the community. Both hotels provided rooms at no charge to first responders and frontline medical professionals so that they limited the exposure of Covid-19 to their families.
Finding the Money
“Grant funds allowed us to weather the storm,” she said. “We were able to tap into PPP. We were also able to obtain a grant from the Maryland Department of Commerce and a low-interest loan from SBA EIDL.” Also, their lender provided them with a short-term deferment to get through the worst of it.
They also received the Charles County COVID-19 Hotel Relief Grant during the first round of those grants in February. Working with the Charles County Economic Development Department to apply for the hotel grant, she said, “It was a good experience. During the first round, we found out about it through the newsletter [EDD ENews]. We appreciate them actually contacting us. I get hundreds of emails a day, so it’s much appreciated that Margaret [EDD Business Consultant] reached out to me. I have properties in other states, and we were not offered grant opportunities.”
Both hotels are now seeing an increase in occupancy, though rates are not where they were prior to COVID. “It takes time to recover, as the market has shifted, and people are still not traveling at the same level,” said Prigmore. “Businesses aren’t doing corporate travel, and that was a significant part of our revenue. While the leisure has been coming back, the big government and corporate travel aren’t expected to resume traveling until the end of the year.”
Climbing Their Way Back Up
“We’re climbing our way up,” she said. “Our revenues are picking up, and we’re getting closer to recovery. The grants helped to bridge the gap to pay employees and other operating expenses. They allowed us to hang on, and now we’re moving toward better times.”