The local hospitality industry is waiting to feel the brunt of COVID-19 coronavirus, which hoteliers expect to intensify in coming weeks as major metropolitan areas around the world face increasing travel restrictions.
Lynn Stewart, general manager of Ketchum’s Tamarack Lodge, said on Thursday that she had plans to meet with representatives from three other company hotels to form a strategy for dealing with potential impacts from the virus. The Tamarack Lodge is owned by Haymax Hotels, which also owns the Hotel Ketchum as well as two hotels in Aspen, Colo.
“We need to determine how fast it’s spreading, and how dangerous it is,” Stewart said.
In Hailey, Wood River Inn General Manager Jackie Shafer said she has heard a lot of people talking about the coronavirus.
“You worry about people coming in. Maybe they’re coming from somewhere the coronavirus already is,” she said.
The previous weekend had sold out due to the ski races at Sun Valley Resort, Shafer told the Idaho Mountain Express on Tuesday.
“I had more people cancelling in September after the kids went back to school, when there was a big outbreak of colds and flu,” she said.
With financial markets in turmoil this week and the travel industry hard hit, that rosy picture could soon change.
On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that worldwide airline revenues this year could drop 20 percent, compared to a 7 percent yearly drop following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And, it isn’t going away.
“This will very likely be a long-term event, given the potential impact on global economies and consumer travel confidence,” Inntopia, a hospitality industry consultancy, said in a memo issued on March 4.
Based on a survey of 300 lodging companies nationwide, Inntopia reported that 38 percent had seen an uptick in cancellations for travel during the previous 10 days. The company reported that destinations with larger numbers of international visitors, including “elite mountain destinations in the West,” will likely be impacted more significantly by travel bans or fear of travel than those that rely more on drive-in tourists.
On the other hand, Inntopia also surmised that Americans may choose an isolated domestic location (perhaps similar to the Wood River Valley) over more crowded international destinations.
“U.S. travel consumers intending to go abroad this year are more likely to cancel or not book at all and stay domestically,” Inntopia reported.
Limelight Hotel General Manager John Curnow said on Thursday that the pace of new reservations has dropped for the balance of the ski season, but does not represent a “large impact” from the coronavirus.
“No group reservations or conferences have cancelled,” Curnow said. “It hasn’t impacted us much yet, but we should expect it to.”
Curnow said the Limelight has implemented a new “flexible” cancellation policy for guests concerned about the coronavirus.
“For anyone planning to arrive before May 3, we will extend their reservation for another time up to one year ahead,” he said.
An employee at the Silver Creek Hotel in Bellevue who chose not to be named said the company uses sanitizers and surface cleaners to limit virus transmission, but that supplies are hard to come by.
“The bottles we have found have had prices go up dramatically,” the employee said.
Hailey’s AmericInn Hotel General Manager Carla Rey said Tuesday that she receives daily reports from parent company Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, including briefings on potential impacts from the coronavirus.
“We get updates on international travel bans, in China and Italy for example, but we don’t get a lot of international travelers here [in Hailey],” Rey said. “Most of our guests are from Boise and Twin Falls.”
Rey said the message from corporate headquarters last week was to “stay the course” and if an employee gets sick, tell them to stay home.
During a company webinar Tuesday, Rey was advised to increase the use of disinfectants in public areas, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
“That means three times a day,” Rey said. “And it includes door handles and elevator buttons.”