Lodging Company Took $1MM Hit With COVID Shut Down
Park City Lodging has taken a hit from the COVID-19 shut down orders that took effect in mid-March. They refunded nearly $1 million to clients who either cut their ski trip short due to the early closing of resorts, or cancelled future lodging reservations.
Owner and President of Park City Lodging Rhonda Sideris says they gave back 100% of deposits and fees and they’re continuing to take cancellations. Sideris believes it was the right way to build trust with their clients. She says not all lodging companies refunded their clients. A lot of people had trip insurance, but a virus epidemic is not covered under the act of God clause.
“A lot of travelers purchased trip insurance, but unfortunately trip insurance didn't kick in because the force majeur. And now people don't trust trip insurance. We didn't take any cancellation fees. We first asked if the client would be willing to move the reservation forward and if we got push back, then we just gave them back the money and I tell you it went long way.”
Sideris says they’ve lost reservations from international and business travelers, a variety of groups and the summer math camp that books the month of July. Most international visitors’ book in advance and she says most of the European markets are saying they won’t come to the U.S. this year. Sideris says they have blocked out reservation calendars until June 1.
“We gave back $955,000, which is a big hit. But we will not open up our calendars for short term stay. If we do, it'll be more of a staycation. You know if you’ve got to work from home and you need to get away from your kids, come rent a condo from us.”
Summit County Public Health officials announced the plans to gradually reopen some businesses next month. Sideris met this week with the Summit County stabilization working group to strategize ways to safely re-open the lodging business.
“We can make them my cleaning standards and my check-in standards. They would probably be more strict than the county. We will do remote check in, we’ll do advance registration with DocuSign. We assign them a code. We won't go into the property while they're there, unless it's an emergency. We won't clean the property for a minimum of 48 hours after departure. We’ll open up the doors, windows and turn on fans. It takes us about an hour and a half longer to clean now because of the disinfecting and sanitation that we do."
Sideris says summer numbers are down, but she thinks visitors may decide to drive rather than fly. As of this report the Triple Crown Softball event has not been cancelled. She thinks leisure travel will return sooner than the business travel.
“We have quite a few reservations on the books right now for Christmas and Sundance. Like I said, our international travelers which that was a lot of December and January, they've cancelled, and I think everybody will probably just change their marketing strategy and target more of a drive market. And the drive market used to be within Utah or maybe into Wyoming, and now the drive market is looking more like 15 hours as opposed to six or seven hours.”
Many second homeowners offered to donate their property for first responders, healthcare workers and victims of domestic abuse. Health care and first responders have not needed additional housing, but the Peace House has had needs and victims are staying in secured donated housing locations.
Sedaris hopes to see an increase in bookings this summer as people decide to pursue outdoor activities.
The president of the Park City Lodging Association, Danny Williams told KPCW in an email that there were three hotel properties that received ‘cease and desist’ orders from the county earlier this month. Williams says they filed an appeal because they had essential services they were supplying. He wrote that one family had a house fire, there were grocery store employees in another hotel. He says government employees, traveling nurses and truck drivers were housed in some of the hotels that had received the order. According to Williams, all three hotels were granted the exception and agreed to take no visitation guests. He says none of the hotels are actively marketing to visitors. He says check-in and cleaning protocols are in place with all three hotels.