(The Center Square) – The spread of the coronavirus and implementation of stay-at-home orders across the country have taken a toll on the hotel and lodging industry. Health and safety concerns have kept more people at home, not traveling for business or pleasure.
Arizona has been no stranger to this with the beginning of the coronavirus shutdowns hitting right at the peak of tourist season.
"Unemployment in our industry reached a record high, the average hotel occupancy for those that remain open is less than 10 percent and the state has lost nearly $2 billion in visitor spending," Kim Sabow, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, told The Center Square.
In early May, the American Hotel and Lodging Association released industry-wide hotel cleaning standards in the wake of the coronavirus. The Safe Stay Initiative enhances hotels' already-rigorous standards for cleanliness and safety, taking the lead from the Centers for Disease Control.
Some of the new guidelines include personal protective equipment for employees, sanitizing of public spaces and elevators, physical distancing at pools and other areas, and housekeeping not entering guest rooms unless requested. Sabow said the main priority now is ensuring properties have access to personal protective equipment and sanitization supplies.
Gov. Doug Ducey's latest executive order relaxed restrictions from previous orders, allowing businesses to reopen to customers and restaurants to open to diners.
"After nearly two months of closure, important amenities such as pools, restaurants, fitness centers and spas just recently reopened," Sabow said. "Some of our hotels have seen an uptick in reservations since the Governor has allowed these amenities to reopen.
"The Governor's guidance was based on recommendations and best practices from the industry," Sabow said. "Leaders representing all segments of the travel industry worked in conjunction with public health experts to develop a common set of best practices that could be applied across the entire industry."
Personal health and safety continue to be at the forefront of consumers' minds as business slowly returns to previous levels.
"The safety and security of our guests and employees is our number one priority. It always has been and will continue to be," Sabow said. "We recognize that many travelers are nervous and we want to give them peace of mind when they do travel. Communication is key in the effort of building consumer confidence and we will do our part to share with the general public the new safety and sanitation protocols."
While it will take some time and confidence to return to pre-pandemic levels of occupancy, Sabow said that Arizonans can do their part to help the lodging and tourism industry back on its feet.
"We are optimistic that many Arizonans will be interested in exploring the state and scheduling staycations this summer," Sabow said. "We encourage those who can and feel comfortable to schedule a staycation, book a dinner reservation, or go on a day trip to explore wonderful Arizona. We know there is a long road ahead to full recovery but we are optimistic that our industry will emerge stronger than before."