Big-Name Hotels Go Empty and Smaller Owners Are Hurt

It all started to fall apart for Vinay Patel about a week ago.

The occupancy rates at the nine hotels he owns in the Northern Virginia area plummeted from about 50 percent to only a handful of rooms each night because of the coronavirus pandemic. He scrambled to cut costs. Floors were shut down. Bar and hot food service was stopped. A laundry dryer was turned off. And he started to lay off staff.

“It’s just gut-wrenching,” Mr. Patel said, adding that he was trying to retain employees who didn’t have a working spouse or a second income.

Among Mr. Patel’s chief worries is debt — the mortgages he holds on the Hampton Inn and Aloft by Marriott and other hotels he owns.

“I’ve reached out to my lenders saying, ‘We have to work through this together,’” Mr. Patel said.

Early Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington reached an agreement for a $2 trillion stimulus package that would be the largest in U.S. history. The hotel industry, which has been hit particularly hard, had asked for a $150 billion bailout. As many as four million hotel employees — housekeepers, maintenance workers, desk clerks and others — have been laid off or will be let go in coming weeks, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Much of the concern in the industry is on the roughly $350 billion in mortgages, construction loans and commercial and industrial loans taken out on hotels and held by banks, insurance companies and investors.

The bulk of that debt wasn’t borrowed by the big chains, like Marriott International and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Keep reading this article on The New York Times Business.

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