What Happens To All of NYC’s Empty Hotels?

18 January 2021
HANYC

John Fitzpatrick has weathered multiple crises in his more than three-decade career in the hotel industry. He opened his first hotel in New York City during the Gulf War and owned three by the time 9/11 happened.

But COVID-19's impact on his life's work has been unlike anything else.

"The difference between 9/11 and this is that after 9/11, the rest of the world circled around New York," he said. "But now, no matter where you look, they're dealing with the same problem."

Fitzpatrick followed in the footsteps of his late father, who opened his first hotel in Ireland. His sister currently runs that hotel and he runs two hotels in Midtown —the Fitzpatrick Manhattan and Fitzpatrick Grand Central. But right now, only the Fitzpatrick Manhattan is welcoming guests. And while he hopes that both hotels will be able to survive this year, he can't be certain.

He's far from alone in that uncertainty.

When COVID-19 hit the city in March, the hotel industry, and tourism overall, took a massive hit. The shutdown happened right before spring, a season that usually attracts a large number of tourists to the city. In 2019, more than 66 million trips generated about $47.4 billion in direct spending in the city. Officials expected those numbers to rise in 2020 with an estimated 67 million visitors by the end of the year, according to NYC & Company, the city's tourism agency. But with the pandemic, the actual numbers were expected to drop by about 66%, to 22.9 million visitors.

While tourist spending is a major part of the city's revenue stream, business and commercial travel spending also constitute a large share. In fact, business travel typically drives overnight hotel visitation more than leisure in the first and fourth quarters of the year, according to NYC & Company, the city's official marketing organization. But with offices still closed and companies allowing their workers to continue working from home well into 2021, hotels continue to see dramatically low occupancy rates.

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Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC)

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