Hotels go dark across St. Louis, region's tourism office furloughs almost half its staff
ST. LOUIS — Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe was in the tourism and convention business in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit 15 years ago.
“This is like Katrina on steroids,” said the chief of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, known locally as Explore St. Louis.
In just two weeks, the hotel industry — whose room taxes fund a good portion of the CVC’s operations — has all but shut down as the coronavirus pandemic forces events to cancel and people to stop traveling. That’s forced layoffs and furloughs of CVC staff who have nothing to market and no events to prepare for. America’s Center, the convention center operated by the CVC, is dark.
It’s a hit few saw coming, especially after a good start to 2020, with occupancy at area hotels up about 3.6% year over year in January and February.
“We believe that those metrics are all going to be down 80%, maybe even a little more for last week,” Ratcliffe told her board during its bi-monthly meeting Wednesday. “And this week it’s likely to be 90%. As a result, hotels have laid off or furloughed thousands of workers in the St. Louis area. They have closed off entire floors or wings of hotels. They have closed food and beverage operations. And in some cases, they are simply closing their doors.”
Ratcliffe knows of three or four hotels in the region that have closed — the Post-Dispatch has confirmed one, in St. Charles — and she suspects more will follow suit.
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