Economy

The coronavirus pandemic has struck hard at Louisville hotels and Airbnbs.

At the Brown Hotel, Director of Operations Volker Wellmann said an unprecedented number of events have been cancelled, and business is at a standstill. Some of the hotel’s 200 employees have been laid off, but no floors have been closed, he said.

Wellmann declined to reveal how much the Brown Hotel lost in room cancellations. He has talked with other hotel staff and based on those discussions, he believes the industry is averaging occupancy of around 17%.

“We’re already going through the motions of, ‘How do we get out of this quickly?’” Wellmann said of the Brown Hotel. “We need to be somewhat frugal, but we’re going to stay productive. There’s a lot of work to be done here and we’re attacking this on a very, glass half-full kind of approach.”

More than a dozen hotels, including the Omni, Seelbach and Galt House, did not return requests for comment. Louisville Hotel Association President and Marriott Louisville General Manager David Greene did not respond to requests for comment.

A press release from the American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates more than 7,000 workers in the hotel industry and have lost their jobs in Kentucky because of the coronavirus. Many hotels and Airbnb hosts rely on guests traveling for the Kentucky Derby, which has been postponed until September.

Key Source Properties CEO Jonathan Klunk owns more than 65 short term rental and bed & breakfast units in Louisville. Klunk said Key Source lost around $200,000 in room cancellations just this week, and he expects more cancellations are ahead. The group says it has discounted rooms offered to essential travelers, medical staff and people self-isolating.

Ben Botkins, Founder of Parkside Bikes and co-owner of the Bed & Bike Airbnb, said all reservations for his business have been cancelled. Botkins stressed that his situation is not as dire as others — he expects some of his tenants who work in restaurants are facing worse situations, and will be unable to pay rent. But he still faces property taxes and a mortgage.

Three months, he said, could be the difference between being comfy and being broke.

“I was expectant for everyone to be happy [this time of year]…I don’t know what to do,” Botkins said. “We can only hold on for so long, and something’s going to have to give.”

Clarification: This post has been changed to reflect a trade association’s estimate of jobs lost in the hotel industry.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.