SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced a $150 million grant designated to assist hotels and lodging that are facing huge losses since the pandemic.
The grant could impact more than 2,000 hotels statewide after the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on tourism. Hotels in the Coastal Empire should expect some funding to come their way once they complete an application.
“We were going full blast coming off of 2019, the biggest year in history we’ve ever had in hospitality to a sudden stop, everything just quit,” says Jim Sprouse with the Georgia hotel and lodging association.
The hotel industry has been struggling to bounce back ever since. Tourism leaders in Savannah say the industry in the city is recovering well but it’s still not seeing the number of visitors before the pandemic hit.
“The worst hit by far was tourism and hospitality,” said Michael Owens, CEO of the Tourism leadership council. “And it’s important to remember that, unlike a retail store, if a sofa is not sold today, you can sell that same sofa tomorrow. But a hotel room that goes empty tonight you can’t go back in time. So those losses — up until the governor interaction here — had been permanent losses.”
At its lowest, the historic district saw a 6% occupancy rate in one month. Owens says even 2021 numbers didn’t near pre-pandemic numbers.
And now thousands of hotels will soon have a chance at a piece of the pie based on how much they’ve lost.
“We’re going to look at did you have a loss,” said Sprouse. “Yes or no. Everything is scaled according to the size of the hotel by number of hotel rooms and the metric of their labor cost. So, it’s really those three factors that will drive the grant amount.”
Officials say the money is geared towards workforce development and getting people back on the job. WSAV will have more information on how to apply when made available.