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Statewide: Hospitality industry in dire need of additional federal funding

Local hospitality leaders and lawmakers are putting pressure on Congress to pass another COVID stimulus bill to help keep hotel doors open and tourism going.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Since COVID-19, the hospitality industry has taken arguably one of the greatest financial hits. Revenue is down, reservations have been cut in half and the future for many hotels is unknown.

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and a new survey, 74 percent of hotels will be forced to lay off even more employees if Congress does not pass another COVID stimulus bill. 

Oxford did a nationwide survey and found that in New York State alone, without additional aid, 79,028 hotel jobs could be lost. 

Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, says it's unacceptable for an industry as economically impactful as the hospitality industry is to be overlooked. 

"Already for this year, our hotel occupancy is down 48 percent and our overall hotel revenues are down 58 percent," Kaler says, "So, our hotels are hurting and when our hotels hurt that means the rest of our tourism industry is hurting as well."

Conor Hawkins is the general manager of Curtiss Hotel, a locally and independently owned hotel in Downtown Buffalo. Since March, Hawkins says he and his staff have been getting as creative as possible to keep revenue flowing. But, the reality is, especially with winter coming, federal support is going to be key in order to keep staff employed and doors open. Right now, staff is at about 70 percent.

"It's a lot of revenue loss, when you look at the holiday parties, weddings, events like that where people naturally have bigger numbers. Of course, that's a hit," Hawkins says. 

Local lawmakers, Congressmen Brian Higgins and Chris Jacobs have been working hard to do their part as members of the House to get Senate to take immediate action - sooner than later.

As of right now, there's no word on whether or not additional stimulus money will be provided.