Charleston hotels feel COVID-19 impact, adapting to new recommendations

VIDEO: Hotels adding more safety measures

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - Hotels across the Lowcountry are adapting to new safety measures during the pandemic, all the while feeling a financial crunch from the coronavirus.

As businesses begin to reopen, Wayne Smith, a College of Charleston professor, said that the hotel industry could see a long recovery period dependent on travel.

“We’re probably going to see a lot of regional visitors at first, so drive visitors like Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville those types of visitors,” Smith said. “The group market is probably not going to be until at least to the end of the year, probably not until next year.”

Researchers at the college also estimate that the hospitality industry will lose $2 billion by the end of May due to the coronavirus.

Smith said that this time of year, usually around 85 to 90 percent of hotel rooms would be full. But the coronavirus could leave the peak travel season around 30 percent filled.

Director for Lowcountry Hotels, Dan Blumenstock, said that number is even lower for his hotels which have remained open.

He said for those that are traveling, hotels are adapting to new safety recommendations outlined by the state health department and Accelerate SC.

“We have to have a balance of what’s appropriate from the health and safety of guests and the employees and also be able to welcome those guests and to welcome those employees into this environment,” Blumenstock said.

Changes include adding additional signs and hand sanitizing stations, to rearranging their gym which opens on Monday.

Employees have to wear masks and the breakfast buffet is suspended. Instead, guests are ordering to go meals from the kitchen.

Housekeeping is also only cleaning rooms between check-outs to minimize contact.

“I think it’s just a continual training. It’s a training of employees, it’s a training of the guests that are coming to stay here,” Blumenstock said.

Despite the changes and challenges, Blumenstock said he has been encouraged by the response on a local and state level to making the hospitality industry safer.

“We really have embraced this as a community and as an industry,” Blumenstock said. “I’m really proud of what’s been done throughout our community in order to prepare for the safety of others.”

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