Thursday, February 2, 2023
Feb. 2, 2023

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Heat drives many residents into Clark County hotels

Spike comes at same time as industry sees customers returning

By , Columbian Innovation Editor

The extreme heat pushed many people into hotels last weekend, giving the hospitality industry a boost in business.

It was a spike in an already growing number of people booking hotel rooms in Clark County and in the country. Occupancy rates are up, and hotel amenities are coming back. But the industry is still dealing with a lack of job applicants – and the loss of revenue from the past year and a half is still leaving some hotels in debt or a recession model.

“We are definitely busy,” said Mike McLeod, general manager at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. “We had been projecting leisure demand to take off for the summer and it has. This is happening all over, not just here in Vancouver.”

The Hilton Vancouver is seeing about 80 percent occupancy, about 10 percentage points higher than Clark County’s average occupancy rate for May 2021: 69.6 percent. That’s a huge increase compared with March 2020’s 34.3 percent.

The county’s occupancy rate in May was actually better than before the pandemic. May 2019’s rate was 67.9, almost two percentage points lower. That also means prices have gone up too. The county’s average hotel room rate in May was $100.37, compared with $77.38 in May 2020.

The Hilton, like most other hotels, is slowly reintroducing amenities as business returns and open positions are filled. On Wednesday, the gym and pool fully reopened without reservations. In the near future, McLeod will reopen breakfast and lunch options, valet service and room service.

McLeod said that business travel is increasing slowly, but his group and convention business is still light. “But that all should start to gain traction later this year,” he said.

As hotels across the country welcome the increased business, the American Hotel & Lodging Association released a report on Thursday that stated 21 of the top 25 U.S. hotel markets are still in a “depression on recession cycle.”

Clark County’s hotel market, seeing business from interstate and airport proximity, is faring better than some urban markets: Seattle hotel revenue per available room dropped from $122 in May 2019 to $54 – a 56 percent drop, according to the report.

The labor market is still lacking lower-wage workers looking for hospitality jobs, and hotels and restaurants both have plenty of jobs they are having difficulty filling. The Hilton Vancouver and the conjoined Grays Restaurant and Bar list more than 10 jobs available online.

The hotel jobs are retuning, however slowly. Clark County’s Accommodation and Food Services industry had a 19.2 percent increase in employment from May 2020 to 2021.