The hotel industry, nationally and in Vermont, says its sector was hit uniquely hard by COVID-19 restrictions, leaving it needing more federal aid to get through the winter.

Tim Piper, president of the Vermont Inn and Bed and Breakfast Association, said Wednesday that while nearly every industry was hit by COVID-19 restrictions, hotels, inns, and the like were unique in that they had to actively turn away their only real source of income — guests.

According to Piper, restrictions loosened for the industry more slowly than others, with hotels only within the past few weeks being allowed to run at full capacity.

Piper said May through October is when hotels make most of their money. This gets them through the slower, winter months.

“And with that being gone and taken away from them, it would be like a squirrel heading into the winter with no nuts in the tree,” he said.

In May, hotels and inns were allowed to run at half capacity. Gov. Phil Scott announced it was up to 100% in mid-September. Piper said while the hospitality industry in Vermont supports all of the safety measures, the timing of the restrictions coincided with when these businesses need to be open the most. While restrictions were relaxed and some places can make money, it won’t be enough to recover what was lost.

He said the Payroll Protection Program, funded by the federal CARES Act, was helpful, but more will be needed.

“It’s time for Congress to put politics aside and prioritize American workers in the hardest-hit industries,” stated Chip Rogers, president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, in a news release Tuesday. “Hotels are cornerstones of the communities they serve, building strong local economies and supporting millions of jobs. Thousands of hotels across America are in jeopardy of closing forever, and that will have a ripple effect throughout our communities for years to come.”

According to the lodging association, nationally, without further relief efforts, 74% of hotels will have to lay off more workers than they have already, while 64% won’t last another six months. In Vermont, according to the association, there were 12,377 hotel jobs before the pandemic. As of September, 4,716 had been lost. The AHLA survey indicates 8,644 jobs would be lost without further action. Those are jobs directly related to the industry. As for hotel-related jobs, the association said there were 36,959 prior to the pandemic, with 8,538 lost as of September. A total of 16,632 will be gone without more COVID aid. It also projects that of Vermont’s 279 hotels, 137 would face foreclosure, and 187 could close.

AHLA stated the pre-COVID and September job loss numbers are from an Oxford Economics analysis. Potential job losses are from AHLA analysis, and the closure and foreclosure figures are based on an AHLA survey.

Piper said if Congress does offer more aid, the Scott administration has expressed that it’s on board with the hotel industry getting help. He said the Legislature is less predictable given the number of people involved. The state’s hotel industry has created an informal group and hired Downs Rachlin Martin to lobby for it in Montpelier. He said the pandemic forced lawmakers to become experts in various industries in a short period of time, and the aim behind the lobbying to educate them on parts of the industry unique to it.

“We support health and safety, we are very proud of the little state of Vermont being as safe at is has been, we all felt we’ve done our part, but asking people not to come into this state affected this industry dramatically,” said Piper.

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com