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Monday, June 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Resting uneasy

Recession and harsh winter tough on hotel industry

The snow mounds were still high surrounding the Coeur d’Alene Resort on Thursday. Hotels say snow days hurt, but the season is typically slow anyway.  (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The snow mounds were still high surrounding the Coeur d’Alene Resort on Thursday. Hotels say snow days hurt, but the season is typically slow anyway. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Inland Northwest hoteliers have a message for area businesses and social groups: Book your Christmas 2008 parties, again.

Widespread cancellations of holiday get-togethers put a painful period on the end of a year that began well enough but went south as high gasoline prices and economic uncertainty gave birth to a new phenomenon: staycations.

Although some groups rescheduled their December events for January, others have not – and probably will not – bother.

The parties enliven the December-January doldrums when business travel typically slackens, hotel operators said last week. Rebookings will offset some losses sustained in December, they said. But aggressive efforts to attract more individuals and groups for 2009 will have a much bigger effect on sales.

“I’m hoping we’re going to pop out of this,” said Jerry Jaeger, co-owner and president of Hagadone Hospitality, which operates the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

He said group sales held up well for the year, dipping just 4 percent. Many that canceled Christmas affairs have rebooked, he said.

Individual reservations were hit much harder, Jaeger said, and the resort is close to launching a promotional program like that used to introduce the vastly expanded facility when it reopened 20 years ago. Deals on food, the spa and ski area passes will be included.

Instead of rolling with the downtrend, he said, “We’re going to kind of attack it.”

Jaeger said there have been some reductions in compensation at the company, but he declined to say how deep or broad they are.

“We’re really watching all our costs,” he said.

At Red Lion Hotels, regional Vice President Todd Thoreson said cancellations and reshedulings was only two of the challenges area hospitality companies had to contend with. Employees could not get to work, others could not get home, so making sure enough manpower was on hand meant putting workers up in guest rooms.

Thoreson said employees removed what snow they could from flat roofs, sidewalks and parking lots, but outside help had to be brought in to help remove snow at Templin’s in Post Falls.

Some guests have favorite parking spots, Thoreson said, and they expect them to be cleared no matter what.

Covered parking took one snow hassle off the list for Mike McLeod, general manager of the Doubletree Spokane-City Center.

But a frozen drain did cause a minor leak, he said, and Spencer’s Restaurant lost some bookings, not all of which have been recouped.

McLeod said the hotel did fine, perhaps coming out slightly ahead, in part because special rates were offered to passengers stranded at Spokane International Airport.

Like the Doubletree, The Davenport Hotel had some roof issues: Falling ice broke five stained glass panels over the lobby. That was about the only damage the hotel suffered in December, spokesman Tom McArthur said. Occupancy was good, the hotel’s traditional holiday events were very well attended, and the bar in the Peacock Room was busy.

“December was very good to us,” McArthur said. “For the moment, we’re doing OK and better than most.”

Rough weather is often a positive for hotels and motels, said Tom Magnuson, chief executive officer of Magnuson Hotels.

Travelers who might otherwise press on to their final destination have second thoughts when they anticipate hitting Lookout or Snoqualmie passes in the middle of the night, he said. For hotel managers, he said, disruptions due to severe weather are not that big a deal.

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