LA hotels bounce back to pre-COVID levels


Hotel bookings in Los Angeles returned to 100% of their pre-pandemic levels in October and November 2019, considerably above the national average as many innkeepers struggled to maintain their standards due to personnel and supply chain issues.

The stage of LA’s comeback has been reported by the international hotel commerce platform SiteMinder, which thousands of hotels use to sell rooms online.

And while Los Angeles hoteliers are doing better than most, the itch of traveling the country and perhaps visiting friends and family is rife as people look past the pandemic.

“There is pent-up demand for vacations that have been postponed, for weddings that have been canceled,” JLL’s hotel sales broker John Strauss said, and the threat of new variants of the coronavirus has not stopped the new rush to the country.

A guest exits the Shay Hotel in Culver City on a rainy afternoon.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“Despite the headwind of Omicron, there is a definite and strong appetite” for travel, he said.

Most hotel guests take the road for pleasure rather than business. The reopening of family attractions such as Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld has prompted many Americans to drive or fly to Southern California, Strauss said. “They are big engines” of tourism.

Many visitors to Los Angeles come from elsewhere in California, which is not surprising as many travelers choose destinations they can reach by car, said Bernhard Ballin, regional vice president of the Americas at SiteMinder. Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and New York were among the other states that sent the highest percentage of hotel guests to Los Angeles.

The national average for hotel bookings is 89.57% of 2019 figures, according to SiteMinder. San Francisco hotels, on the other hand, are operating at about 50% of pre-pandemic levels, the data shows.

International travel remains more difficult than usual with pandemic fears and months of restrictions, including quarantines, meaning fewer visitors have come from overseas to Los Angeles than current these days. last years.

A hotel lobby with a seating area and a fireplace.

The lobby at Shay Hotel includes a seating area and a fireplace.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In the past six months, more than 15% of visitors to Los Angeles were international guests, with the majority of bookings coming from Mexico, Argentina, Britain, Belgium and Spain, Ballin said.

Hoteliers are taking advantage of pandemic-related change among U.S. employers to allow their employees to work remotely rather than in the office, said Rob Lowe, whose company recently opened a full-service hotel called Shay in the Ivy Resort. Culver City Station.

“People have more flexibility” when working remotely, he said. “If they don’t need to be in the office on Friday or Monday, they can extend their weekend and work from the hotel.

Lowe is the co-managing director of a Los Angeles real estate company called Lowe, which owns and operates hotels and other commercial properties in the United States. Among its hostels is Terranea Resort on the coast at Rancho Palos Verdes.

The Shay opened in October and occupancy is already around 50% on average, said Lowe, serving vacationers on weekends and a mix of leisure and business guests during the week. .

A man stands near a hotel bar.

Bartender Victor Garcia runs the Celestina Rooftop Bar at the Shay Hotel in Culver City on December 9.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The return of hotel stays has been boosted by higher-than-average leisure travel, but group event bookings are also brewing after all, but wane for much of the pandemic. Leisure travelers, business travelers, and groups meeting for retreats and other common interests such as weddings are the top three categories of hotel guests.

California’s COVID-related restrictions on indoor gatherings put a damper on the group’s activities in the state in the first half of the year, Lowe said. The Group’s activity resumed in the summer and accelerated in August. In September, an upsurge in Delta variant infections sparked a wave of cancellations.

The lull was short-lived, Lowe said. “These cancellations sort of ended like magic after September,” he said, and the following months have been “very strong”.

Nationally, Strauss said, “there is a major comeback in repressed group affairs” as people who delayed meetings and reunions put them back on the calendar. The main destinations are large resort hotels and properties located near entertainment venues such as theme parks.

A woman works behind the reception of a hotel.

Reception host Brittany Williams works at the Shay Hotel in Culver City.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The pace of growth suggests “extremely strong” group bookings in 2022 and 2023, he said, and the US Travel Assn. predicts that domestic business travel spending will increase by more than 50% next year.

Business travel is starting to pick up, Strauss said, but has not reappeared as a priority for businesses in the age of Zoom and other online meeting services.

Concerns over Omicron and other variations of the coronavirus remain a factor in people’s travel planning, but Strauss predicts international travel will be the next category to increase as quarantine requirements and other restrictions begin to lift .

Last month, the United States completely reopened its borders with Mexico and Canada and lifted travel restrictions that covered most of Europe. The restrictions were among the toughest in U.S. history and frustrated many potential visitors from overseas.

Among the luxury hotels within driving distance of Los Angeles is Rosewood Miramar Beach, a Tony Montecito resort, where rooms typically rent for over $ 2,000 a night, even in winter. The hotel closed for about two months at the start of the pandemic in 2020 but has been well looked after since, said Jackie Levy of Caruso, the Los Angeles-based company that owns the property.

A man takes photos on the outdoor patio of a seaside bar.

The outdoor deck of the oceanfront bar at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort in Montecito offers spectacular views.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Levy declined to discuss the Miramar’s occupancy and precise income, but said Thanksgiving week was sold out and its event activities such as weddings were in full swing for the past six months.

“We have a couple of events each week through December and until next year,” said Levy, chief revenue and business manager for the company founded by developer Rick Caruso. Most of these are weekend weddings, which start at $ 29,000, but midweek business retreats are starting to reappear as well.

Celebrity attention raised the profile of the Miramar, a longtime family beach getaway that Caruso picked up and rebuilt in 2019. In October, drummer Travis Barker of pop-punk band Blink-182 proposed to the star from reality TV Kourtney Kardashian in a moment on the hotel beach.

For more typical travelers, the destination of choice is usually a familiar brand. Nearly one in four Americans say a large chain or resort is where they will stay on their next trip, Ballin said. Boutique and luxury hotels have grown in popularity, however, and are the preferred accommodation types for 26% of travelers, up slightly from before the pandemic.

A hotel swimming pool at dusk

The Cabana Pool is one of two pools at the ultra-luxurious Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort in Montecito.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

As customers come back, many hotels struggle to get the routine supplies they need to operate.

Nearly 3 in 4 operators say supply chain issues are hurting their revenues, according to a recent survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. They face delays or increased costs to acquire basic items such as cleaning products, linens, food and drink.

Lowe said his company has big problems with the supply chain when it comes to building and renovating hotels. Bathroom vanities, for example, are prefabricated in Asia and have been delayed at sea.

“It’s the same with furniture,” he says. “It comes in small chunks over the months instead of just in time. “

An ongoing challenge for hoteliers that may outlast supply chain problems is the shortage of employees, especially in their dining rooms and bars, Lowe said, reflecting a nationwide shortage of workers in the area. catering ready to work for wages that the industry typically pays.

“Most hotels and restaurants have fewer servers than they need and high demand,” Lowe said. Labor-saving measures implemented during the pandemic, such as inserting menus on QR codes and ordering by customers from electronic devices, may be here to stay, especially in larger venues. casual.

“We see this as a permanent change because we are definitely under-supplied with labor,” Lowe said, “and we don’t see that changing.”


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