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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Hotel, Motel Owners Continue to Struggle During Pandemic

Hotel

By Shay Roddy

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
WILDWOOD – Summer 2020 continues to be a struggle for hotel and motel owners who are dealing with waves of cancellations, limited staff, and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been quite a challenge,” said Steve Tecco, president of the Greater Wildwoods Hotel and Motel Association and owner of a Wildwood Crest hotel.
After losing Memorial Day weekend entirely and then opening for some time in a limited capacity, hotel and motel owners were behind the eight ball to start and have been attempting to get out of trouble since.
Restrictions that were lifted on swimming pool usage June 22 helped, Tecco said, but by then, the ocean was getting warmer, and guests, for close to a month of the season, were unable to use one of the most important amenities.
“We had a number of guests here prior to the pools opening. They were disappointed at first because that time of the season, the ocean tends to be a little cooler, but they understood. Come June 22, they really enjoyed having the pool again,” said Tecco.
Things were looking good for a little while. Tecco said there was a solid 10-day to two-week stretch in late June with no cancellations. Then, before the Fourth of July, Gov. Phil Murphy halted the planned opening of indoor dining, which would have significantly helped some hotels with restaurants, and the phones started ringing again.
“The resurgence of the virus has created another wave of cancellations. It’s very easy to detect because the two have been so parallel,” said Tecco.
Tecco said he and his colleagues are grateful that they are getting any season at all, but cited taxes, utilities and operating expenses as big challenges on a down year. Those postponing their reservations a year instead of canceling and requesting a refund are helping to keep things afloat.
“Some of those cancellations are transfers to next season for regular guests, which is a tremendous help because it allows us to hold onto some of those funds,” he said.
Difficulty hiring staff exacerbated the problem hotel owners and managers are having. J-1 workers, who normally travel to the shore to work on temporary summer visas, are largely absent this year due to travel restrictions caused by the virus.
This is compounded by the lucrative unemployment the state is giving to help those out of work because of the pandemic. However, many who would have worked the front desk or in the housekeeping department are not willing to do so when they can earn just as much or maybe more sitting home.
“It is just promoting an atmosphere of laziness. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, in most cases, for people to work when they can make the same money for doing nothing,” said Tecco.
This caused Tecco and other hotel and motel owners to raise the hourly rate they pay for these positions. This has been reflected in other industries, as well.
“All of my colleagues are basically doing that in a season where we are all down. We have no choice,” Tecco said.
That means it’s all hands on deck. Business owners are doing what they have to do to make it work this summer.
“I looked across the street a few times and saw my neighbor pushing a maid’s cart,” said Tecco. 
To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com.

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