Occupancy soars for New York City hotels, leading U.S.

“On Saturday the eleventh, we were sold at crazy prices,” said Michael Aschenbaum, president of Gansevoort Hotel Group.

Gansevoort in the meatpacking district recently completed a renovation, so prices have gone up to reflect the modernization. But last weekend, Achenbaum said, “we were able to be a little more aggressive because there was a lot of push in the market.” He said the Saturday rates in question were higher than around the same time in 2019.

The city’s accommodation sector shrank significantly in March 2020 and was among the slowest to recover. Demand for hotel rooms rose to 2.3 million in October, resuming a relatively steady year-over-year rise, according to STR data drawn by City Monitor Scott Stringer.

The sunny picture is cloudy: The 81.5% rate is still 13% lower than the 2019 average for the same week, STR says, even as the total number of rooms is down due to hotel closures in the meantime. That’s still about 1 million rooms less than it was in October 2019.

Job losses in the industry have been significant. As of November, there were 22,400 jobs at accommodation firms, down from 53,700 two years earlier.

Tourists have a strong incentive to visit the city now, they said, allowing hotel operators to sell rooms at non-discounted rates.

“Everyone was waiting to launch after two years of hibernation,” said Mitchell Hochberg, president of Lightstone, which operates three hotels under the Moxy brand. Like Gansevoort, he said, his three locations exceeded their revenue per available room from 2019 and were in the high 90% range.

“Everywhere from check-in to food and drink to lobby bars, there is an incredible amount of energy,” Hochberg said. Most visitors are from the United States, he said, but international arrivals were also booking.

Jason Pomerank, founder and owner of Sixty and Civilian hotels, said downtown hotels have seen particularly strong demand. But Midtown also saw a stronger-than-expected final quarter, he said, as visitors arrived to watch shows.

However, some operators are already feeling the headwinds from the omicron variant Covid-19 and related government policy.

“The moment there is a specialty [pandemic] “Advertising, there is an effect on bookings,” Achenbaum said. He said the guests have stopped buying for the next month but booked seven to eight weeks away. His team has been negotiating with a group due to be here in February about a more flexible cancellation policy, because members come from all over the world and worry about losing deposits if national borders close again, for example.

“Hopefully, policies are not made in reaction but only if there is real science to support them,” he said.

Hotel operators said visitors would like to be vigilant and respect the city’s health policies, but most appear unwilling to refuse just because coronavirus cases are on the rise.

“We are cautiously optimistic, that this will be a short glimpse into the path to New York’s long-term recovery,” Pomerank said.

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