The hotel business in Reno and Sparks didn’t entirely come to an abrupt halt during the COVID-19 shutdown.
It just felt that way.
Hotels and motels in the area rented rooms for about 42,600 nights during April, according to figures collected by the Reno Sparks Conventions and Visitors Authority.
A lot of room rentals? Certainly not in comparison to normal times.
For starters, the number of rooms available for a night’s stay — a “room-night” in the language of hospitality professionals — fell dramatically as hotels associated with casinos were shut down, hammering the 14,000 people working in casino hotels in Reno and Sparks when the properties were shut down.
After those closures, only about 145,000 room nights were available in the Reno-Sparks area in April, compared with about 480,000 in February, the last month before the pandemic began taking a bite out of business.
Ben McDonald, a spokesman for RSCVA, says 23 to 26 hotels were operating in Washoe County at any time during the pandemic before casino hotels began reopening today.
Even with the big reduction in the number of rooms available during April, occupancy rates were puny. RSCVA says about 75 percent of the reduced number of available hotel rooms were vacant during the month. Vacancies at motels ran about 60 percent.
And even when they rented a room, hotel and motel owners took in less cash. The nightly rate for a hotel room averaged about $90 in April — which compares with $124 a year ago — and motel rooms were renting for an average of about $52. That compares with $61 a year earlier.
So with tourism pretty much shut down, who was renting hotel rooms?
“Anecdotally, I’ve gathered that much of that visitation has been primarily business travel, temporary housing for relocating residents, traveling nurses and occasional visits from friends and families of local residents,” says McDonald.
RSCVA estimates that about 55,450 people visited Washoe County during April, a small fraction of the 330,000 visitors in the comparable month last year. In March, when pandemic restrictions began to take effect, the number of visitors totaled 174,000.