ST. LOUIS — Hotels here, devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, are just now starting to recover and may not fully recuperate for another three years, analysts say.
The pandemic stalled new developments, like the Moxy Hotel in downtown St. Louis, and sunk business industrywide. New hotels that opened at the beginning of 2020, like Ballpark Village’s Live! By Loews, promptly closed when the pandemic struck. With ballgames, weddings and conventions all canceled, travelers were stuck at home — and hotel occupancy fell off a cliff.
Companies like Lodging Hospitality Management, which owns 20 hotels across the region including at Union Station, saw business plummet from about three-quarters full to more than 90% empty.
“I’ve been at it a long time,” said Bob O’Loughlin, chairman and CEO of LHM. “It’s something you could never dream up.”
The St. Louis hotel market was booming before COVID-19 hit. More than a dozen hotels were planned or under construction. At the end of 2019, occupancy and revenue per available room, key metrics that gauge the health of the industry, were at 66% and almost $74, near record highs. But the pandemic plundered the hotel market, which now won’t recover until at least 2024, according to new research from commercial real estate firm CBRE.
Hotel occupancy for the entire region fell nearly 46% in 2020. Revenue per available room fell nearly 59%. They were the biggest declines the St. Louis market has seen since 2000, when CBRE began tracking hotel data. COVID’s impact was swift, gutting the industry in mid-March “almost overnight,” said Olivier Gompel, an executive vice president at CBRE Hotels Advisory.