Hotels reopen with caution following economic downfall
The impact of COVID-19 on hospitality was felt almost immediately in Virginia. According to the U.S. Travel Association, in the first week of March, travel spending was at $521 million across the state, but by the last week of the month, it had fallen to less than $120 million. Most conventions statewide have moved online or been rescheduled.
Hotel revenues across the state were still down by 42% during the week of Aug. 16-22, compared with the same week in 2019, according to STR Inc., a CoStar Group division that provides weekly market data on the U.S. hospitality industry.
Although the pandemic has forced many hotels to rearrange their grand openings and renovation projects, hotels and conference centers are opening — and applying precautionary measures to ensure guests have as safe a stay as possible.
Here’s a sampling of what’s new around the state.
The Quirk Hotel Charlottesville made its debut in early March and is now open. The property is owned by Ted and Katie Ukrop, who started the first Quirk Hotel in downtown Richmond, and the art-focused boutique hotel has 80 rooms, a rooftop bar, art gallery, meeting space, a restaurant, The Pink Grouse. And coming soon will be a whiskey and cigar bar called Bobboo.
In an interview this summer, General Manager Matthew Brink said the grand opening party, held right before the pandemic struck Virginia, “was reminiscent of Hollywood. We saw great growth over the [first] weekend,” but within a week, “the world turned upside down.”
He notes that Quirk Charlottesville, which involved renovation of some older buildings on Main Street, still had some work to do on about a quarter of the guest rooms and landscaping in its courtyard, so the closing between March 23 and June 1 allowed that work to be finished. In Lynchburg, the Kirkley Hotel started on a multiyear, $1 million renovation last September. The upgrade will impact its 163 rooms, restaurant, ballrooms and façade. The hotel is still taking reservations, but the restaurant is open only for grab & go breakfast until Dec. 31.
Near the Richmond International Airport is the 160-room Sheraton Richmond Airport Hotel, one of Richmond-based Shamin Hotels’ 61 properties in six states. The hotel reopened in January after extensive renovations, including the addition of 8,000 square feet in event space.
The Delta Hotels by Marriott Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites, the only hotel facing the Chesapeake Bay, is set to reopen in November after new ownership and a two-year, $27 million renovation, with 295 suites and 12,257 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Formerly known as the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel & Conference Center, the property was bought by the Lingerfelt CommonWealth Partners LLC of Richmond in 2018 for $19 million.
On the Atlantic, the 24-story Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront opened its doors in June. The $125 million hotel, with 305 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet of event space, is the second phase of owner Gold Key | PHR’s three-phase plan to renovate and expand the Historic Cavalier Hotel & Beach Club, after the 2018 reopening of the historic beach resort after a four-year, $85 million renovation.
In Norfolk, another Marriott property, Glass Light Hotel & Gallery, is now open, with 117 boutique hotel rooms and suites, a gallery and a restaurant serving French-inspired New American dishes by a Michelin-starred chef. One of its most unique features is the collection of glass artwork by Dale Chihuly and Peter Bremers, including two large glass rabbits.
The Hyatt Regency Dulles in Herndon reopened in early 2020 after a top-down, multimillion-dollar renovation on its 316 rooms, restaurant and 29,000-square-foot meeting center, and it remained open through the early days of the pandemic.
The Hyatt Centric Old Town Alexandria opened in January, with 124 guest rooms, a restaurant inspired by French and Southern cuisines, and a lobby that also can be reserved for event space.
Some previously announced Northern Virginia projects — including The Dittmar Co.’s Holiday Inn redevelopment in Rosslyn and a planned hotel in Tysons to be constructed by Capital One — are on hold or are being redesigned to reflect different needs in the current environment.
The Georges, a recently restored 200-year-old boutique inn in Lexington, has 18 guest rooms and several event spaces, including the new Patton Room, which can accommodate up to 250 people for cocktails or 160 for a seated meal, as well as the Garden Terrace, just off the Patton Room. Owned by NewMarket Corp. President, Chairman and CEO Thomas E. “Teddy” Gottwald and his wife, Ann Parker Gottwald, the inn has a restaurant, courtyard and lobby lounge. In July, it was named the second-best city hotel in the United States by Travel + Leisure magazine.
The Omni Homestead Resort, Bath County’s largest employer, reopened in late June after closing for three months due to the pandemic. As one of the premier locations in the state for large conventions, the Homestead was heavily impacted by coronavirus shutdowns, forcing it to furlough 700 to 800 of its employees. But now, with safeguards in place, the resort has reopened for the most part, although its iconic dining room was still closed as of early September, and the Jefferson Pools, which are undergoing renovations, will reopen in 2022.
In Winchester, the new SpringHill Suites by Marriott property opened this summer. With 96 suites, free WiFi and a small meeting room, it’s located near the intersection of Interstate 81 and U.S. Route 11.
Roanoke region/Southwest Virginia
The Sessions Hotel in downtown Bristol, which opened on State Street in June 29, is named for the city’s status as the birthplace of recorded country music.
Kimberly Christner, president and CEO of Cornerstone Hospitality, which owns and operates the Sessions, said in June that the 70-room Marriott Tribute Portfolio hotel was seeing an uptick in bookings this summer and early fall. Amenities include a barbecue restaurant, rooftop bar, 2,300-square-foot meeting space and an outdoor performance stage.
Meanwhile, The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Curio Collection by Hilton, is undergoing a $3.9 million renovation of The Pine Room Pub and The Palm Court Lobby, with completion slated for September. The facility, which has 330 rooms, also boasts a 63,000-square-foot conference center. In July, the hotel’s management said small meeting rentals had begun to pick up again since the early months of the pandemic.