Empty hotel rooms have industry leaders concerned

With business trips cancelled and tourists staying home, hotels are among the businesses struggling through COVID-19 restrictions.  

Some have closed while others hope it doesn’t come to that.

Minneapolis-based Ruhr Development owns a dozen hotels in Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa. They are mostly Country Inn and Americ-Inns. In the past month, those buildings have sat mostly empty. This time of year, the hotels would maybe sell 40 rooms a day, which is now about a week’s worth of occupants.

Considered essential, the hotels are still open, but some have temporarily closed. Some of Ruhr’s competitors have permanently closed.

“The owners are throwing the bank the keys and walking away,” said Jeff Ruhr.

According to Liz Rammer, the CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, the industry in Minnesota accounts for about 300,000 jobs.

She says about 80 percent of that workforce has been laid off or furloughed.

“We’ve done an impact study - a couple of them - and our most recent, completed last Tuesday, showed us that over half of our operators have one to three months to survive. After that, many of them are going to have to close their doors. It’s a huge, huge red alarm here and we need to do all we can to help support those businesses,” Rammer said.

Unlike restaurants who keep a tiny amount of money flowing with takeout orders, hotels have nothing similar.

Ruhr says his hotels have lost about $700,000 in the past four-and-a-half weeks and hopes officials can start taking steps to reopen the economy before this lags into summer.

If his company loses most or all of June, he says it’s going to be tough for some hotels to recover.