Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

Data Confirms It: 2020 Was as Bad as You Thought for Hotels

You knew 2020 was bad for the hotel industry when even your favorite national sales rep was furloughed, but now the data is in to prove just how bad it got. According to STR, the U.S. hotel industry hit an all-time low in both occupancy and revenue per available room (RevPAR) — and average daily rates (ADR) also were the lowest they’ve been since 2011. All three metrics are the worst on record across those three all-important key performance metrics.

Occupancy was at 44%, a more than 33% decline. RevPAR numbers were even worse: $45.48, a decline of more than 47%. ADR was $103.25, down more than 21%. The net result is an almost zero profit for the year.

In fact, for the first time ever, the industry had more than 1 billion unsold room nights, eclipsing the previous low of 786 million unsold room nights during the great recession of 2009, according to STR, which provides data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights for the global hospitality industry.

Only one major market managed to post an ADR above $200 — Oahu, Hawaii — even as it experienced the steepest year-over-year occupancy decline at 50%. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., was the only top 25 market to reach 50% occupancy, but even that was almost 30% down from 2019. Minneapolis/St. Paul reported the lowest occupancy level at 33%, an almost 50% drop year over year.

In aggregate, the top 25 markets reported lower occupancy at almost 43%, but higher ADR than the other markets.

The new year is also off to a slow start as the national vaccination program begins to roll out in fits and starts, according to both STR and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021. And while leisure travel may begin to tick up as the vaccination program gains momentum, the corporate travel market, including that for meetings and events, is expected to remain tamped down for the near future.

The AHLA report found that business travel, which accounts for up to 65% of U.S. hotel revenue, will remain down 85% from what it was just two years ago, and travel overall won’t get back to what was a normal level in 2019 until 2024. However, there was one bright light: 29% of the currently employed business travelers surveyed by AHLA said they expect to attend their first business conference in the first half of 2021, 36% expected to start going to meetings again in the second half of the year, and another 20% said they’d be back to meetings at some point next year.

This all does not bode well for those who work in the hospitality sector, either. According to the AHLA report, the U.S. hotel business already has shed some 4 million jobs since 2019. While they do expect to add 200,000 or so positions this year, the unemployment rate will remain a dismal almost 19%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of hotel job growth. Yet the hallmark of hospitality is endless optimism, and I am confident in the future of our industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA.

“Despite the challenges facing the hotel industry, we are resilient,” he added. “Hotels across the country are focused on creating an environment ready for guests when travel begins to return.”

And when it does, U.S. News has just released its ranking of the best 2021 luxury hotels, based on star ratings and guest reviews. While COVID_19 hygiene and safety protocols were not a part of its ranking system, it did take the overall cleanliness of a property into account.

2021 U.S. News Best Hotels Rankings


  1. Four Seasons Resort Lanai
  2. Acqualina Resort & Residences on the Beach
  3. The Peninsula Chicago
  4. The Beverly Hills Hotel
  5. The Langham, Chicago


  1. Ritz-Carlton Montréal
  2. Rosewood Hotel Georgia
  3. Fogo Island Inn
  4. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto
  5. Fairmont Pacific Rim


  1. Rosewood Mayakoba
  2. One&Only Palmilla
  3. Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection
  4. Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal
  5. Montage Los Cabos


  1. Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France
  2. Eden Rock – St Barths
  3. Belmond Cap Juluca
  4. Jade Mountain
  5. Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve


  1. Le Bristol Paris
  2. Hotel de la Ville, A Rocco Forte Hotel
  3. Badrutt’s Palace Hotel
  4. Ashford Castle
  5. Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris

For more information on these rankings, visit Best Hotels.


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About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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