Following the U.S. elections and success of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, hotels in Washington DC are seeing a ‘Biden bounce’ in business ahead of his inauguration on January 20th 2021.
1. A difficult year
The summer and autumn seasons have been slow due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with STR data demonstrating low occupancy rates in Washington D.C. hotels. For both August and September occupancy was down roughly 50% compared to the previous year, at around 36%, and rising slightly to 37% in October, although this was in fact a 51% drop from the previous October.
2. Uncertainty over scale of inauguration event
Although some Washington DC hotels report that bookings have slowed again in recent weeks as Covid-19 cases spiked across the country, there was an initial increase in booking for the inauguration weekend. Austin Phillips, director of marketing for the Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC stated, ‘The Saturday the election was called for Biden (November 7th), we saw a surge of reservations over the weekend, both at our hotel and across the district’. He continued, ‘But then it kind of paused, and it’s remained somewhat paused since then. People are holding off a bit to book.’ However, he said that even a reduced version of inaugural events will provide a much-needed boost for the tourism and hospitality sectors in the city. He concluded, ‘News stations are still reserving their blocks, and the high-level people who traditionally come in every four years will still be coming in.’
Philips views were backed up by Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC and national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. He stated, ‘Hotels are realizing decent pace in terms of occupancy, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re selling out’. Continuing, ‘The big reason for that is because the inauguration this year could be a hit or miss. Due to concern for health and safety, the president-elect could be cautious in terms of people physically gathering, and things could be significantly different.’
3. ‘Biden bounce’ providing hope
However, several hotels have seen an extremely positive reaction to the election news and are very hopeful that the event will boost business. Gabor Vida, managing director of the Rosewood Washington DC, said the 55-room property expects to be full during the Inauguration Day period, despite Covid-19. The property has unveiled six 1,100-square foot residential-style townhouse accommodations which are featured in their ‘An Intimate Inaugural Ball’ package. A three-night townhouse stay including an in-room screening of the inaugural ceremony and dinner for six, is priced at $4,000 a night, before taxes and fees. Vida stated, ‘We’re forecasting to sell out’, adding, ‘It appears that despite the pandemic, individuals are still looking to experience the momentous day in person.’ The Riggs Washington DC and the Mandarin Oriental Washington DC have also reported a significant increase in bookings.
4. Worries for a slow winter
The boost in business for the tourism and hospitality sectors surrounding the inauguration is especially important, as there are fears that winter will be another slow season. Ongoing travel bans in the country, possible changes in hospitality regulations in DC, and closures of many of the city’s attractions at the end of November due to the pandemic, means the winter season is looking to be difficult. For many in the sector, Biden’s inauguration event and the benefits of new interest in the city often generated by a new administration, are desperately needed.