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ArlingtonBusinessHotel-occupancy rates still down in the dumps

Hotel-occupancy rates still down in the dumps

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Hoteliers and moteliers in Arlington continue to be filling far fewer rooms than they were in the pre-pandemic period, and coupled with significant reductions in room rates, are receiving less than half the revenue per available room than they were a year before.

Arlington’s hotel-occupancy rate of 31.6 percent for the first three months of the year was down from 52.3 percent for the January-February-March period of 2020, according to figures from Smith Travel Research reported by Arlington Economic Development.

(The pandemic’s impact hit in mid-March 2020, slightly cutting into the first-quarter-of-2020 occupancy rates. But the full force of the pandemic wouldn’t be felt until the second quarter.)

The average room rate for the first three months of the year in Arlington stood at $112.66, down from $150.60 a year before. Combine that with the diminished occupancy rate, and you get daily revenue per available room of $35.63 for the period, down from $78.82 a year before.

The first quarter of any year traditionally is a slow time for the D.C. region’s hotel industry, although – had the pandemic not been a factor – rooms would have filled up the third week of January 2021 for inauguration festivities. As it was, most of the smaller crowds that came to D.C. were there to protest, not celebrate, the election of Joe Biden.

With an increased rollout of vaccinations, there may be some hope to salvage some part of the 2021 summer-tourism season (business travel, however, are another matter). But figures in March were not encouraging: hotel occupancy that month was just 24.5 percent, and with an average room rental of $107.20 per night, the daily revenue per available room was an anemic $26.25.

In a hopeful sign, the developers of several residential buildings in the county have won government approval to use some of those units for hotel space during the first year or two following completion. That suggests they see the likelihood, or at least possibility, of a post-COVID surge.

Doing so allows the developer to obtain a steadier stream of revenue as the buildings lease up, and is a big win for the county government, since hotels generate significant tax revenue without requiring significant services.

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