Hotel

By Natalie Gale

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This month, some Boston hotels have seen their highest demand since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cause? Events like the Boston Marathon, the Head of the Charles Regatta, and the Red Sox playoffs have brought visitors to the city in droves, whether those folks are visiting from an hour away or from the other side of the globe.

Adam Sperling, general manager of Fenway’s Hotel Commonwealth, said the last couple of weeks at the hotel have seen the most guests since before the pandemic. While Sperling said they had a great summer, owed in part to the crowds back at Fenway Park for Red Sox games and for concerts, “the marathon and the Red Sox playoffs have definitely taken it to another level.”

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The continued success of the Red Sox season also spells victory for Fenway area hotels. “It’s unbelievable—the game ends, and the phones ring,” Sperling said of the walk-off win Monday night. “The correlation is instant.”

Over at the Liberty Hotel near Mass General Hospital, general manager Shahram Kahn has also seen a significant uptick in business this month. He expected to be at full capacity over the marathon weekend, and has similarly high hopes for the Head of the Charles this weekend. “Those are very important events for the hotel industry and for the city,” said Kahn. 

Kahn said the Liberty also had a successful summer, with many New England residents who still weren’t up for international travel heading into Boston for leisure. While the Liberty’s large clientele of business travelers has yet to return, Kahn hopes for more conferences to make their way back to the convention center in coming months when it’s safe. 

Many hotels are also back to pre-COVID staffing levels, signifying security not just for businesses but for individual employees, too.

“That’s super important going forward, that the employees know that this becomes more of a sustainable, viable job,” said Sperling.

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Sperling also cites Hotel Commonwealth’s location near Boston University as a recent driver of business with college students returning.

This weekend is also BU parents’ weekend, and “that’s always just a great weekend to be in Boston,” said Sperling. “It’s that quintessential fall weather, and such a good time to be in the city so we anticipate pre-COVID levels of demand for that weekend.”

Stephen Johnston, general manager of the Boston Harbor Hotel, notes that business certainly isn’t back to normal yet. “Our capacity in October and September was the highest we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Johnston, “but still well below the levels that we would ordinarily see at this time of year.” The waterfront hotel still awaits the return of more business and international travelers, while celebrating the big improvement in demand that this summer and fall have seen, said Johnston, noting that they’ve learned to “take nothing for granted.”

This current high demand is only short-term for now, and hotel managers agree that predictions for the rest of the year and into next are a bit premature.

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“It’s a little early to tell as this year’s been up and down,” said Kahn, “but we are seeing some good signs.”

Even busy weeks come with their challenges — Sperling said Hotel Commonwealth is dealing with supply shortages that change week to week, so they’re rolling with the punches.

“The next 30 to 45 days look great,” said Sperling, “but there’s certainly a great deal of uncertainty beyond that.”

Kahn noted that despite the uncertainty, Massachusetts’ handling of the pandemic looks good for the future of the travel industry.

“The state and local governments have done a great job at controlling the virus, and more and more Massachusetts residents are getting vaccinated,” said Kahn, adding that he hopes the state will emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. 

“We know that there may be some challenges in the short term ahead,” said Sperling, “but we’re pretty optimistic about what 2022 will bring.”

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Source : https://www.boston.com/news/business/2021/10/23/bostons-hotel-industry-sees-october-bump/

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