Predicting the return of corporate travel would be a cinch if foretelling the future was foolproof. No one, however, has that extraordinary prescience and even if they did, the future is, at best, murky. The continuing popularity of work-from-home arrangements, the COVID-19 induced reluctance of both individuals and companies to get back out on the road, and issues throughout the travel supply chain are all converging to create a less-than-hospitable environment for individual business travelers.
Hotel food and beverage operations have radically changed in the wake of the pandemic. From breakfast buffets to banquet dinners, service has drastically altered to keep guests safe and as stopgap against weaker demand. Several of the adjustments made due to immediate needs are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, according to some F&B authorities.
Meetings and conferences generate big business for hotels. The pandemic made a big mess of that. On the rebound, hoteliers are eager to see that demand segment return. The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines—coupled with a societal eagerness to get out of the house—has led to a relatively robust bounce in leisure travel, which helped underpin a listless hospitality business. Add Zoom fatigue of workers to the list of travel motivators and the return of medium-sized and large-scale gatherings aren’t too far behind. That’s good news for hotels, as properties suffered massive losses due to the near evaporation of group business last year. Pre-pandemic, when hotels were riding high, total conference and banquet RevPAR (excluding rooms) for 2019 in North America was $40.15. That revenue source fell to $9.28 in 2020.
Hotels globally performed better in the third quarter, but the improvement proved to be only less bad, as COVID-19 continues to roil the world. U.S. hotels in Q3 achieved a gross operating performance per available room (GOPPAR) of $-9.87, which was 58% higher than the GOPPAR recorded in Q2, but 110% down from the same period a year ago, according to data from HotStats.
A hotel’s overall performance is the sum of its parts. Though the bulk of revenue is derived from the renting of rooms, there are other arrows in a hotel’s quiver that can generate cash flow, such as restaurants, bars, meetings and events, spas, golf, parking, retail and more. Therein lies the rub: COVID-19, for now, has all but vanquished these ancillary revenue streams, a blow especially to luxury and full-service hotels that typically offer these services.
COVID-19 dealt the global hospitality industry a vicious blow. A Chuck Norris roundhouse kick combined with a Mike Tyson uppercut that left it immobile. The scores of hotel closures and staggering number of job losses are evidence of the pandemic’s pernicious impact on the industry. An overwhelming number of hotels have suspended operations because of lack of demand, while hotels that remain open are running bare-bone operations.
COVID-19 plunged a knife in the collective heart of the global hotel industry and in one fell swoop destroyed demand, sending revenue and profit to historically low levels. This global pandemic is the most harrowing event to ever besiege the hospitality industry. As stridently as room sales have plummeted, the crash in food and beverage (F&B) is even louder.