Cars are the leading choice of transport in the COVID era
OKLAHOMA CITY – Hotel visitors throughout the United States indicated in a new report that they would be willing to pay more during their stay if increased safety precautions were implemented, according to a survey conducted through Washington State University at Pullman.
As indicated in an earlier Southwest Ledger story analyzing consumers’ concerns and levels of comfort when it comes to dining out in restaurants, the WSU report, prepared by Dr. Dogan Gursoy, Dr. Christina G. Chi and Prof. Oscar Hengxuan Chi, offered readers of the report a sense of where many folks are on the subject of both eating out and lodging.
In the Nov. 5, 2020, Southwest Ledger article “Diners returning in slow-but-steady numbers to eateries,” Gursoy and his team explained that the WSU study “was collected from a nationwide sample of American consumers – 810 total.” And that even though the researchers are based in the Pacific Northwest, the sampling was from around the U.S.
“We conduct this study every month in order to track restaurant and hotel consumers sentiments,” Gursoy told the Ledger in early November.
Notes Gursoy and his team in the October report: “Visible sanitizing efforts (such as hand sanitizer stations throughout the property, more rigorous and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces in common areas), employees wearing masks, encouraging employees to wear masks, employee temperature check, and employee training of health and safety protocols are the most important safety precautions they expect from a hotel.”
Additionally, as the WSU report highlights, physical distancing efforts are highly valued, and guests also expect both employees and customers to wear masks.
Along with that, “various technology solutions” that “minimize human contact” are desired by guests, as are self-check-in/check-out and keyless entry.
PAYING MORE FOR A SAFER ENVIRONMENT
The study of the more than 800 Americans also featured statistics on how 46.04% were willing to pay more at a hotel if they touted increased safety precautions while approximately 29% expected hotels to implement increased safety precautions without an additional cost to hotel guests.
Between September and October there was an ever-so-slight increase in the number of Americans willing to stay at different places of lodging.
Traditional chain hotels fared best with 40.10% willing to stay, compared to 37.28% the month before.
That was followed by independent hotels, which saw a drop from September to October 29.38% to 25.74%.
Airbnb saw a small increase from one month to the next – 16.30% to 16.71% in a month’s time.
A similar, small increase was noted for users of recreational vehicles (RV’s) with 13.58% to 13.86% between the two months.
Also in this portion of the WSU study, when asked what mode of transportation folks preferred when traveling, personal automobiles were far and above the most preferred choice, with 77.81% in October, compared to 79.32% the month before.
Gursoy writes that demand for air travel decreased between September and October from 7.64% to 6.48%. RV travel rose from 4.76% in September to 5.86% in October. Travel by coach, train and “other” were beneath five percent according to respondents. Interestingly, coach travel rose somewhat between the two months from 3.13% to 5.24%.
HOLIDAYS LOOKING NOT-SO-MERRY FOR THE HOTEL INDUSTRY
The American Hotel and Lodging Association released new statistics in advance of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season for 2020. The results did not look bright for the industry that has wreaked havoc on an industry struggling to adjust to this new COVID-19 environment.
A Travel Daily News article out this week featured an interview with Chip Rogers, the president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The situation, he said, is bleak for the hotel industry, and Congress needs to act soon and offer relief for those who are struggling to stay afloat.
“This holiday season will be an especially difficult time for all Americans, and our industry is no exception,” Rogers said. “Fewer people will be traveling, and business travel remains nearly nonexistent. That’s why it’s so important for Congress to pass a relief bill now. Millions of Americans are out of work, and thousands of small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open. We cannot afford to wait until the next Congress is sworn in for relief. They need help now.”
The article notes that “more than half of hotels report they have less than half of their typical, pre-crisis staff working full time currently.”
And without further governmental assistance, 74% of hotels told the publication that they would be forced to make more layoffs.
But Rogers reminds travelers that if you are considering traveling during the holidays that “hotels will be ready to welcome you” through their “Stay Safe initiative,” which is regarding hotels’ “rigorous cleaning protocols” which should further offer travelers more peace of mind, while also increasing their transparency to the public.
The article concludes by noting that business and group travel are not expected to reach 2019 peak demand levels again until 2023. Due to that sharp drop in travel demand, because of COVID-19, “state and local tax revenue from hotel operations is estimated to drop by $16.8 billion in 2020.”
LOCAL IMPACT ON HOTEL, CASINO AND VENUE
Locally, Apache Casino Hotel spokesperson Carrie Paye said that while many hotels have used COVID-19 as an opportunity to provide fewer services, the Lawton hotel, casino and venue has been going the opposite way by providing more services to guests and making doubly certain that hotel rooms and common areas have been sanitized.
An example is the daily use of an electronic fogger. This machine ionizes the air and everything around, so when a chair is fogged, the spray wraps around everything on that chair, top to bottom. And Apache Casino Hotel is using the fogger throughout the property.
“It’s really remarkable,” Paye said, adding, “Air quality is number one.” Masks have been required on the property since they re-opened in May.
She noted that guests have been very appreciative of Apache Casino Hotel’s extra efforts to provide a safe environment.
The public, Paye said, “Sees it, feels it, experiences it” regarding the great lengths the hotel has gone to ensure safety and high quality at every level on their Lawton property.
And employees are benefiting as well, with regular temperature checks, masks and sanitizing at regular intervals.
Going into the holidays and on to 2021, Paye said demand for entertainment in their performance venue. And while the room can comfortably seat 1,200 people, adjustments for social distancing are being made.
Also, Apache Casino Hotel has been offering “staycation” and Visit Lawton packages. She noted that early in the pandemic, visitors from north Texas were coming in droves, because of Lawton’s proximity to “safe” places like the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
And while events, like graduation at Fort Sill, have been canceled, the hotel and casino are doing everything to draw in the public for all sorts of entertainment options going forward.
“Our goal is to remain open,” noted Paye.