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Hotel industry set back again by COVID impacts but sees early summer bookings

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After a year of devastation reservation and staff losses due to the COVID crisis, the hotel industry is on its heels again with the latest surge.

"We were all hoping that when we flipped the calendar into 2022 we would be leaving Covid behind us but as we found out it is a very challenging environment that we are currently in," said Tom Patton, General Manager of the Ramada by Wyndham in Goleta. He is also this year's Chair of the California Hotel and Lodging Association.

The latest surge has caused renewed widespread disruptions.

Patton has been talking to operators statewide about COVID impacts.

"They've seen a considerable decline  with group bookings for the month of January.  On the positive side is they are rebooking later in the year." said Patton. "People still want to travel they are just pumping the brakes a little bit as we go into January."

In the last week many sporting events at all levels,  including two home UC Santa Barbara Men's basketball games have been canceled. That also means, traveling teams are not staying in hotels.

Many pro and collegiate games, festivals and entertainment gatherings are still planned later this month and in February including the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, with a cautious approach for public safety.

"This is generally our quieter time of the year as far as leisure transient business goes so we rely on group business for that so  these groups have tremendous impacts," said Patton.

 With the recent storms, ski resorts have been a big seasonal boost for the hotel industry, along with other open air locations, despite the pandemic.

Patton said, "probably anything that is outdoors, ski resorts with the abundance of snow they have received in the last few weeks that's amazing and that's  something that is certainly very positive.  I think all of the outdoor activities in Santa Barbara has allowed us to be at the top of the heap." 

Travelers who are still on the move are finding increased protocols for spacing and proper masks,  but the industry is confident after this surge,  the next surge will be for a robust summer season.

"Everything we are continuing to hear points in that direction, early bookings, a desire for groups to come later on.   They are all positives," said Patton. "There would have to be a significant downturn to dissuade people from getting out. People want to travel, they have that desire. We see the summer as a bright spot."

For more information go to: California Hotel & Lodging Association

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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