While leisure travel is starting to return most hotels across the Garden State are still struggling mightily.

Dana Lancellotti, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, said many industries have received pandemic financial assistance but the hotel industry has not, and after 16 months of COVID restrictions a lot of these businesses will be forced to close if they don’t get help.

“We can’t seem to get a budge for them as far as funding is concerned to help them with the needs they have to come back,” she said.

She said in addition to getting the hotel industry financial assistance “there’s also the need for incentives for more corporate travel for conferences to come back, incentives to get that part of our economic engine moving again.”

Lancellotti noted hotels opened their doors when medical and first responder teams were dispatched to Jersey during the early days of the pandemic, they’ve helped to house quarantined COVID patients, hosted vaccination drives but now they desperately need assistance themselves.

A new report by the American Hotel and Lodging Association finds unless Congress and individual states approve financial assistance the hotel industry in New Jersey could lose an additional 12, 392 hotel jobs by the end of this year.

Lancellotti said in addition to not generating much revenue during the pandemic many hotels are now experiencing a labor shortage similar to many other businesses and “they’re also going through the same thing everyone else is with products and delivery costs being so sky-high.”

According to some Industry leaders former hotel workers may not be returning to their jobs because of lower pay, sometimes poor benefits and a stressful workplace, and are looking for other opportunities in different industries.

To compensate for the lack of assistance funding, Lancellotti said hotels are looking for ways to lower costs, including cutting daily clean up service.

“So if you’re staying for a few days they don’t even come to knock at the door unless you’ve asked the hotels to clean the room,” she said.

She also pointed out hotels are modifying “food service and things like that are concerned, where things are put out with plastic covered over them, you know they’re doing a lot of things to be safe.”

She stressed efforts are underway to let the governor and legislators know how badly the industry needs help, and how important this industry really is.

“This is how we support tourism, this is how we support corporate travel, conventions, sports tournaments, all the things that we need to come back to our state again to get us healthy,” she said. “the hotels are the ones that make that work, we can’t bring business in like that without having hotel accommodations, we certainly don’t want to lose our hotels.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Association report finds hotel occupancy is projected to drop 10% this year compared to 2019 levels, and nationally revenue will be down about $44 billion compared to two years ago.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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