Kaine, Wexton Host Tourism Recovery Talk

One of the most beleaguered industries during the COVID-19 pandemic was in full focus during a Thursday morning Zoom talk hosted by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10). 

The tourism and hospitality industry has taken one of the hardest hits during the pandemic and its leaders are still struggling with supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and revenue losses that mean full recovery could still be years away. 

Visit Loudoun CEO Beth Erickson said there are “pockets of good news” when looking at hotel occupancy rates in Loudoun County. However, even with recovery beginning, particularly when it comes to leisure travel, occupancy rates last year were still 17% below 2019 levels, and revenue per available room lagged 22% behind compared to two years prior. The tourism body’s forecasting now puts the total loss incurred by the county’s hotel industry since the pandemic began at $170 million. 

Vinay Patel, who owns several hotels in the state including in the Northern Virginia market as president of Fairbrook Hotels, emphasized that, while occupancy overall is back, the average rate per hotel room is down considerably. He pointed to a hotel room at one of his Hampton Inn properties that now produces an average nightly rate of $100, as opposed to $170 prior to the start of the pandemic. 

“I’m still paying the same amount for running the hotel, but my revenue has dropped by 40 to 50%,” he said. “The plight we have here, it’s a long-term problem.”

Many on the call pegged the lagging recovery on the slow return of business and corporate travel. Some even took the federal government to task for being wary about returning to in-person conferences, and encouraged Kaine and Wexton and their congressional colleagues to do their part to aid in the recovery.

“This area is dominated by commercial and government travel. That is the engine by which we all make big bets in building hotels and facilities to support them. With them not being in the office and not engaging in what would be normal training, meetings and welcoming people to offices the impact has been very dramatic,” said Mark Carrier, senior officer at B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group.

“Our corporate travel at the National Conference Center has basically gone away,” said John Walsh, general manager of the conference center. “It’s tough on a facility to operate at 18% of normal sales.”

The impact on the tourism and hospitality industry is being felt even by those businesses that serve them. Katie Schneider owns Promo – The Marketing Management Group Inc. in Ashburn and supplies businesses with promotional products and branding services. 

“If I don’t have restaurants that need uniforms, no conferences that need swag bags, I don’t have work,” she said. “When you think of the industries that are suffering, you have to think of the industries supporting those industries.”

Other parts of the state, by comparison, have recovered more fully because of their predominant reliance on leisure or sports travel, like Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads, speakers said.

Scott Hamberger of Sterling Restaurant Supply pointed to how recovery looks in different parts of the country, and attributed a lot of economic activity to messaging and perception.

“Look at the markets that have recovered and the markets that have not,” he said. He pointed to the hotels and restaurants his companies supply in Miami and New York City. In South Beach, his company’s business is back to 80% of what it was pre-COVID; in the Big Apple it’s still only at 20% of pre-pandemic levels. 

“Those markets that are more open, that are leaning into travel, are recovering. If we’re going to talk about how to stimulate the industry, we need to think about our attitude towards being open,” he said. 

To view a video of today’s talk here.

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

7 thoughts on “Kaine, Wexton Host Tourism Recovery Talk

  • 2022-01-27 at 1:09 pm
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    Well, I hope Senator Kaine has more tourist friendly ideas than Governor Kaine had when he closed the rest rooms on the Interstates, to save money.

  • 2022-01-27 at 1:25 pm
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    “Some even took the federal government to task for being wary about returning to in-person conferences, and encouraged Kaine and Wexton and their congressional colleagues to do their part to aid in the recovery.”

    Sure… Sure, Wexton is doing her part, by phoning it in. To wit: Her letter to the Clerk of the House.

    Cheryl L. Johnson
    Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives
    H-154 The Capitol
    Washington, DC 20515
    Dear Ms. Johnson:
    Pursuant to House Resolution 8, I write to notify you of the designation of a proxy to cast my vote.
    I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health
    emergency, and hereby grant the authority to cast my vote by proxy to the Honorable Gerry Connolly
    (VA-11), who has agreed to serve as my proxy.
    Sincerely,
    Jennifer Wexton
    Member of Congress

    Wexton does nothing, and she won’t be helping these business folks either. We deserve so much better.

  • 2022-01-27 at 2:36 pm
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    Scott Hamberger gave them the answer, but these two Lefty loons will never comprehend it.

    The (D)s don’t really care about your business. Your household finances. Or your child’s development, for that matter. They simply want to propagate and perpetuate fear and then bask in the feeling of control they get from this pandemic.

    Governor Youngkin is trying to claw back a tiny bit of normality with giving parents some of their rights back with respect to the treatment of their children. The (D)s are fighting tooth and nail to retain total and complete control. They simply cannot help themselves. There is no middle ground. Reasonableness is not in their nature.

    History will not look kindly on these Covidians. Nor should it.

  • 2022-01-27 at 4:41 pm
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    Loudoun is the Land of Love. And it’s located in a state that’s for lovers. So let’s be optimistic that as Valentine’s Day approaches, many more tourists will flock to this great county. It has so much to offer in the way of history, leisure, culture, food & drink. Let’s hear it for Loudoun County!

  • 2022-01-27 at 8:35 pm
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    Interesting how Scott’s business is so much better in South Beach, Florida than the Big Apple. Since Florida is less restrictive on mask mandates than NYC seems to have a large effect on tourism. If we want to increase tourism, logically we would want to mirror what Florida is doing not NYC. In addition, all the negative press our school board has generated has something to do with how the public views Loudoun County. Unless we make some changes to our direction, our low tourism dollars will continue. In addition we have lost so many restaurants that is a another problem that needs to be addressed.

  • 2022-01-28 at 8:25 am
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    Hotels in Northern Virginia are currently overpriced for the value received. I’ve stayed in Hampton Inns across the US and no Hampton Inn room is worth $170 per night. I am all for capitalism and making profits to keep the economy humming, but excessive prices drive tourism away. If Vinay Patel’s costs haven’t changed, perhaps an efficiency consultant needs to be brought in to tighten things up. All organizations, regardless of industry, need to be reviewed by an objective third party from time to time to ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness. Northern Virginia is a beautiful and exciting place to visit; it should be affordable to visit as well.

  • 2022-01-28 at 10:42 am
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    Data from a poll conducted on 05JAN2022 by Rasmussen, indicated that 45% of likely voters who identified (D), support the government forcibly moving non-injected Americans into “designated facilities.”

    I’m not going to draw any conclusions about the thought processes or motivations of these respondents, but it sure does feel like we’ve seen this before in the The Soviet Union, China and Nazi Germany.

    I don’t see how we’re going to move into a position where businesses and families can recover from the past two years when there are (apparently) large numbers of people who want to put others into camps due to a medical decision with which they don’t agree.

    This is some truly sad stuff.

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