As travel is limited and sheltering in place has become ubiquitous to prevent the spread of COVID-19, hotels across the nation are seeing a decline in business and reductions in staff.
That change has been crushing for Verona hotels.
Gov. Tony Evers’ March 24 Safer at Home order allows hotels and motels to remain open, but they must close all hotel pools, whirlpools, fitness centers and continental breakfast offerings. The order, which went into effect March 25, closes all non-essential businesses in the state for a month and encourages citizens to isolate at home to curb the spread of the disease.
This means a loss of travelers and 18,168 direct hotel-related jobs in Wisconsin, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Verona Hotel Group general manager Charlie Eggen told the Press the two hotels he manages, the Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn and Suites have suffered losses of over 95% of revenue within a week.
“All travel demand has been reduced to nearly zero,” he noted. “All corporate training, social or leisure events, youth sports, business meetings, and basically everything else has been canceled.”
Meggan Carpenter, who works at the front desk of Super 8 Motel on Horizon Drive, said business has nearly halted at that location.
“I can definitely say 90% of the calls we get have been people calling canceling,” she said.
Eggen said, the people who are staying at the hotels are temporary workers on construction sites, medical professionals and even some families who want to social distance themselves, but the volume isn’t enough to support all the inventory of rooms not only in Verona, but through the greater Madison area.
He said he’s had to temporarily lay off or reduce hours for most of the employees at the Verona Hotel Group.
“Hospitality, including lodging and tourism is the largest industry in the world. You can imagine the impact on unemployment when every hotel, restaurant, bar, attraction and entertainment venue has business come to a grinding halt,” Eggen said.
Because Super 8 has a small staff management, it’s been able to be creative with staff hours and duties in order not to lay anyone off, Carpenter said. Housekeepers are learning the duties of the front desk employees, for instance.
And although business is devastated, Eggen and Carpenter said staff are still trying to provide the highest level of customer service to the guests, even during the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“Genuine hospitality and togetherness is one of the foundations of the travel industry and our society,” Eggen said.