RCSE was fortunate to hear from one of our very own members this past Friday - Marc Friday!  Marc spoke to the club about the impact of Covid on the hospitality industry in Savannah.  Marc has been in the hotel industry for 45 years and has been the General Manager of The Planters Inn for the past 20 years.  Therefore, he was the perfect person to speak on this topic.  
Marc began by saying the hospitality industry includes airlines, hotels, and restaurants.  In 2019, the Savannah airport had 1.5 million passengers flying in and out.  In 2020, there was only 600,000.  The airport is adding new flights, routes, and airlines in order to bring in new visitors in the hopes we will be out of Covid soon.  
Savannah hotels faired better than most but it still wasn't good.  In December of 2020, hotel occupancy was 49% in the greater Savannah area which is down 30% from a year ago.  The greater Savannah area has 17,000 hotel rooms while the historic district has 7,500 rooms.  The historic district was down 40% in occupancy and 50% in revenue ($22.6million to $13.2 million).  Due to the loss in hotel occupancy statewide, the State of Georgia's transportation fund lost $16.7 million in revenue because each hotel room has a $5 charge that is applied to the transportation fund.  The City of Savannah lost $4.7 million in taxes from lower hotel occupancy and this doesn't include taxes that are collected from restaurants and rental cars.  
The restaurant industry has been hit hard as well.  50% of restaurant employees have been laid off due to Covid and 20% of restaurants have closed statewide.  Covid has caused a  loss of $5 billion in revenue in Georgia.  Currently, restaurants are only supposed to be operating at a 50% occupancy (this is a statewide mandate).   The City of Savannah has tried to help restaurants and bars by allowing them to pay their liquor license in three separate installments rather than in one lump sump which is due every January.  
The big question is when will we return to normal.  A survey was done recently asking people about their travel habits and when they would feel comfortable traveling again.  The majority said when the vaccine is widely distributed followed by a decrease in Covid related deaths and schools reopening.  Over the next three months, most people will only travel within a 250 mile radius from their house or a four hour car ride.  The top destination will be the beach.  Leisure travel will be the first to rebound with business travel not starting back up until 2022.  Hotel rates will continue to be at an all time low and the restaurant industry is hoping to be back to normal in June/July if they can find workers.  The airline industry will be the last to recovery.  In Savannah, five projects have been paused or stopped due to Covid-19.