(The Center Square) – New Hampshire’s hospitality industry may not have seen the drastic declines some anticipated this summer, but concerns about how to make it through the fall and winter remain prevalent.
Being able to operate hotels at full capacity was key for a better-than-expected summer season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike Somers, president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association (NHLRA), told The Center Square.
“It’s been a challenging year for pretty much everyone in the hospitality industry,” Somers said. “Most did OK over the summer. The ability to get to 100% capacity was very good – the question is, so what does from now until April look like?”
One recent study said two-thirds of New Hampshire’s lodging businesses may be in danger of closing. Somers disagreed with that assessment.
“I’m not familiar with that study,” Somers said. “I think two-thirds might be a little bit high. New Hampshire is much further along than states around us. We did not have the restrictions that Maine had and Massachusetts to a degree. Our businesses were able to operate at a high enough level.”
Being fully open doesn’t mean all rooms are full, however, and as demand declines into the winter months, some form of financial relief will be needed for businesses to survive until more tourists return in the spring, he said.
“What they need going forward is state relief, federal relief and access to capital,” Somers said. “The capital markets are gun shy right now and a lot of these businesses are high cash businesses. They have got to have access to cash flow. Without that, it’s going to be a really challenging winter.”
Federal COVID-19 stimulus talks remain in various stages of negotiation. Gov. Chris Sununu has indicated further relief from the state’s share of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding would be going to support the state’s hardest hit industries, Somers said.
“Hospitality clearly falls in that category,” he said.
Distributions likely would be this fall.
“I’ve heard the governor has made comments to that effect so I believe that is what’s happening,” Somers said.
Exactly how many months of relief the CARES Act funding could provide isn’t known.
“Bottom line, it may help to the first of the year, but we need federal aid to get beyond that point,” Somers said.
Meanwhile, hotels and restaurants are doing everything possible to assure customers of the safety and health protocols in place.
The NHLRA represents hundreds of businesses across the state, from campgrounds to the Mount Washington Hotel to pizza joints, Somers said.
“Ultimately, the way they survive without aid is if people feel comfortable, and we would make the appeal that the hospitality industry is working very hard so you can travel and dine out safely,” Somers said. “We’ve all modified procedures to address this pandemic.”