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AHLA study: Hotel industry bouncing back and will return to 20018 levels in leisure travel by year’s end

After suffering huge losses in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study shows the hotel industry will return to 2019 levels in leisure travel by the end of 2022, while business travel revenue still lags.

The study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) performed by Kalibri Labs, finds U.S. hotel leisure travel revenue is projected to end this year 14% above 2019 levels, while hotel business travel revenue is expected to fall just shy of that mark.

Post-pandemic recovery remains uneven, particularly in many major cities and destinations where business travel continues to lag.  Among the top 50 U.S. markets, 80% are projected to see hotel leisure travel revenue exceed 2019 levels, but just 40% are expected reach that milestone for business travel revenue.  Many urban markets, which rely heavily on business from events and group meetings, are still on the road to recovery.

Louisville, which ranks number 43 among the top 50 markets, is forecast to finish the year with nearly $311 million in revenue from leisure travel, up 3.3% from 2019, which is well below the national average. Business travel revenue is forecast to reach $294 million, which is 8.6% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“The hotel industry continues its march toward recovery, but we still have a way to go before we fully get there,” said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “That’s why AHLA remains focused on working with members, lawmakers and stakeholders in markets that are rebounding more slowly, to ensure the full return of meetings, conferences, and group travel in addition to leisure and business travel.

“At the same time, we are continuing to grow the industry’s talent pipeline by highlighting the unprecedented career opportunities hotels are offering. Thanks to higher wages, better benefits, and more flexibility and opportunities for advancement, there has never been a better time to work at a hotel.”

The uptick in revenue is leading to historic career opportunities for hotel employees, with over 115,000 positions currently open across the nation. Hotels are offering potential hires a host of incentives to fill those openings. 81% have increased wages, 64% are offering greater flexibility with hours, and 35% have expanded benefits, according to a September 2022 AHLA member survey.

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