SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - As the coronavirus pandemic has grown and travel has come to a standstill, hotels near the Santa Barbara Waterfront have emptied.
Many are small and independently-owned. Those that are staying open are only seeing a few guests each day.
In some cases, already-small staffs have been temporarily laid off, leaving only general managers and family members in some cases.
The Marina Beach Motel said this January and February represented its best start to a calendar year so far, only to then see record-breaking cancellations in March and April.
Paul Bullock, general manager from The Eagle Inn, says only a few rooms are still occupied at his hotel.
“Every phone call is a cancellation, every email is a cancellation,” Bullock said. “I’d say, probably, on this street, two out of 10 [hotels] are shut down. But the other eight hardly have any customers at all. So, I think they’re just trying to get one or two rooms a night and at least it’s something in the bank account.”
Emergency small business loans are either on their way or in high demand for these small inns.
“We’re basically shut down now,” Bullock said. “All the staff got laid off. So it’s just really me… if we don’t get the loans coming in, then, we gotta start talking, seriously, like, what to do.”
There are also new cleaning procedures in place at many of these hotels to keep guests and employees safe.
“People leave, we don’t go into the rooms for a couple of days,” Bullock said. “We just leave them. And then after, you know, 72 hours or so, we’ll bring in the house-cleaning crew. And they all wear masks and gloves and PPE [personal protective equipment].”
The Casa Del Mar Inn nixed its buffet and dining room set-up, but still offers individually-ordered breakfast, wine and cheese.
Guest services associate Dan Fleury, who spent time as a nurse and has a food handler's certificate, says the front desk has extra cleaning supplies, returned keys are disinfected and housekeepers are taking extra precautions when cleaning rooms.
“If our guests have confidence that we’re doing what we need to mitigate things, it adds a lot to the confidence level of the general public,” Fleury said.
These hotels are hoping to be back to "normal" by the summertime, but that timeline continues to slowly be pushed back as more events are canceled or postponed.
This is a developing story and will be updated.