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The Westin Boston Waterfront as seen from the entrance to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Hotels Scrambling to Salvage Business Now and Later

Planners may be under the gun to get meetings back on the calendar by the end of the year, but their hotel partners have it even worse.

As stressful as the coronavirus pandemic has been for meeting and event planners, those who work in the hotel industry are having as difficult a time as can be imagined. Right now, many hotels are trying to contribute to the solution and also generate some income by acting as makeshift hospitals for coronavirus patients or housing healthcare workers who must stay isolated in their off hours from the rest of society.

Further, some big cities that expect a surge in virus patients soon could convert their public-hospital system plans to intensive care units only, which means they would send patients who do not have the virus to improvised medical facilities such as hotels. In fact, New York is doing this now.

Even after the pandemic is defeated, hotel sales and service reps will have their hands full as they try to accommodate what is expected to be an unprecedented crush of meetings, conventions, and trade shows trying to take place before the end of 2020. Seafood Expo North America is just the latest example. Show management announced on April 2 that the new dates for the 17,000-attendee, 1,300-exhibitor event are September 22-24 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center; March 15-17 were the expo’s original dates. However, also at BCEC over those dates is Biotech Week Boston, comprising 15 co-located events. To say that hotel rooms in Boston that week will be difficult to come by is an understatement.

Nonetheless, hotels in other cities around the country are also trying to help show organizers move events originally scheduled for the first half of 2020 into the second half, and this article details how properties are becoming more flexible with contract clauses, but not necessarily financial terms, for those meetings. One telling comment in the article from a hotel executive: “While many are suggesting ‘America is on sale,’ we know we need to protect the rates we have built since the 2008 financial crisis.”

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