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IHP Hospitality sees 70% drop in hotel bookings in Nov.

November bookings dropped by about 70%, for IHP Hospitality Corp. as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s Executive Order, which, among other conditions, bans recreational visits to beaches and imposes a curfew.

“We currently own five different hotels across the island. It’s been extremely challenging, Claire Ruiz, director of Finance and Strategic Marketing for IHP, confirmed to this media outlet.

The company owns Hotel El Faro, Courtyard by Marriott, Punta Borinquén Resort, all located in Aguadilla, Howard Johnson in Río Piedras and Hotel Mayagüez Plaza.

“The Executive Order has also caused most of our small weddings to be cancelled, because the law allows only a very limited amount of people in the venue, with a duration of just three hours, and if the event takes place on the weekend, alcohol consumption is prohibited,” Ruiz said.

“That’s also taking into consideration that La Fortaleza’s Chief of Staff must give us permission [to host the event],” she said.

While the company took steps to keep its properties open, its Howard Johnson hotel located on the fourth floor of the Cardiovascular Center in Río Piedras was forced to put operations on hold for fear of putting patients at risk, she said.

“Even though we were no longer in service, we still had to pay for maintenance and any other expense associated with that space. There were no gains in this situation, just loses,” Ruiz said.

The executive confirmed that the bulk of the expenses that have led to financial losses are the investments that must be made to secure client safety.

“We’ve implemented many different elements to ensure the health of our visitors. Much like the creation of wellness spots equipped with touchless dispensers, divisions in common areas of at least 6 feet, electrostatic sprayers to get deeper cleanses, and so much more,” Ruiz explained.

“I would say that taking in account all of our establishments, the expenses total about $150,000,” she added.

IHP Hospitality — like thousands of other Puerto Rico-based businesses — had to lay off employees during the slowdown caused by the pandemic.

“During the months of March through May, we operated with the minimal number of employees, currently we’re working with 30% fewer employees that we had originally,” Ruiz told this media outlet.

As for client traffic, Ruiz said there has been a “significant shift” since hotels reopened, with a new trend of “an increase in last-minute bookings. We’re having more walks-ins than what we were used to. But it still does not replace the number of bookings that have been lost.”

When asked about expectations of the coming year, Ruiz said “it’s very hard to tell or make a realistic business prediction.”

“I have hope that with the arrival of the vaccine in the coming days, the situation in Puerto Rico will get better,” Ruiz said. “That way by July, our busiest month, we’ll be able operate normally while offering our clients that best and healthiest experience.”  

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My name is Kiara S. Visbal and I’m an 18-year-old college student. I’m currently a freshman at Sacred Heart University in Santurce, majoring in journalism. Writing is my number one passion, and I strongly believe that the world wouldn’t be the same without media coverage.

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