By Jim Giammarinaro
President & CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce
FRAMINGHAM – As we move forward in time and recover from the Pandemic the hotel industry in MetroWest will need our support. In addition to being hindered by adhering to guidelines from the state related to indoor restrictions, our MetroWest hotels will continue to be affected by reductions in business travel.
Many of our local hotels, report that pre-pandemic travel accounted for 60-70% of their revenue. Large MetroWest organizations which account for the bulk of business travel do not plan to travel at pre-pandemic rates. Plans are to increase business travel slowly, and with the use of virtual meetings the
need for business travel is less. An estimate of business travel well into the future shows that there may be a permanent reduction of 60% from pre-pandemic levels.
One might ask, why is one industry so important in our economic recovery?
A vibrant hotel industry in MetroWest is necessary for many reasons. Pre-covid there were 1 million overnight hotel stays in MetroWest. If the average hotel room cost, for simplicity, was $100 that is $100 million in revenue for our area hotels.
Current hotel occupancy is averaging around 20%. So, we are experiencing an $80 million reduction annually. What do people who are staying overnight in hotels do? They go out to eat and they shop. A reduction in hotel occupancy rates affects not only hotel revenues but also our restaurants and retail businesses. All are businesses which rely on foot traffic, so they have already been experiencing the slowest recovery from COVID.
Unemployed hotel, restaurant and retail workers make up the largest segment of our unemployed workers. Many of these unemployed workers are low wage earners from under-represented segments of society. For those that were living “paycheck to paycheck” being laid off caused many issues. Eviction
rates increased, particularly with the moratorium on evictions being lifted. In addition to the distress of many individuals subjected to these circumstances, local municipalities and non-profits have been asked for resources to fill the gap in both income and the meeting of basic needs. The current situation is not sustainable. We must all work to increase occupancy rates at our MetroWest hotels to alleviate many of the problems that currently exist.
What is one way to increase overnight hotel stays in MetroWest?
We can attract people from outside our region to come and enjoy what MetroWest has to offer. In other words, make MetroWest a destination for overnight stays. There are so many things to enjoy in MetroWest from a cultural and entertainment perspective. We must work to get the word out to people from outside our region.
Our chamber was fortunate to receive a grant from the MetroWest Visitors Bureau. We are spending the money from that grant to attract people from outside our region for overnight stays. We have selected 6 hotels in MetroWest to begin our efforts. Three hotels are from Natick, and one each from
Framingham, Ashland, and Westborough. This is just the beginning of our work, more hotels from more MetroWest communities will be chosen over time. We are working on content (for both traditional marketing and social media) to highlight the features of hotels and the surrounding cultural and
Below you will see a listing of attractions surrounding our Natick hotels:
THINGS TO DO
• Shopping, Natick Mall (.3 mi)
• Shoppers World (.6 mi)
• Jack’s Abby (1.7 mi)
. Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company (1.8 mi)
• TCAN (The Center for the Arts Natick) (3 mi)
• Framingham History Center (3 mi)
• Danforth Museum of Art (3.2 mi)
• Amazing Things Art Center (3.6 mi)
• Lookout Farm (4.7 mi)
• Sassamon Trace Golf Course (4.5 mi)
• Boston Paintball Ashland Playing Field & ProShop (5.7 mi)
• Garden In The Woods (5.8 mi)
• Sandy Burr Country Club (5.8 mi)
• Nobscot Reservation (6.2 mi)
• Ashland Reservoir (8 mi)
• Putts & More Family Fun Center (7.5 mi)
• Hopkinton State Park (10.3 mi)
• American Heritage Museum (11.9 mi)
• Hopkinton Center for the Arts (12.6 mi)
• Breakout Games – Boston (Marlborough) (13.4 mi)
• New England Baseball Complex (15.2 mi)
• Franklin Performing Arts Company (20 mi)
As you can see there are a variety of attractions surrounding our Natick hotels which would be a draw for overnight stays. In addition to the content for our marketing it will be important to reach out to the appropriate groups in Western Ma., Northern CT., Southern NH. and Northern RI. to drawn people
from those areas in for overnight stays. We are targeting people and groups between 50-250 miles outside of MetroWest.
In summary, it is important to remember how important hotel occupancy is in MetroWest for not only our business community but for those individuals who have been impacted the most from COVID.
We welcome input from our community as our chamber moves forward to be of assistance in our hotel initiative.
Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column will run on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet.