Package the Fourth of July weekend with a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers and you get a grim result for the downtown Santa Fe hotel scene.
Hundreds of calls came in to hotels to cancel reservations for the just-passed holiday, as well as other July and even August reservations, as soon as news crossed state lines July 1 that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had decreed a 14-day self-quarantine for nearly all people coming into New Mexico.
“There’s no smiling today,” said Joe Schepps, president of the Inn on the Alameda, which had reopened only a few hours before the governor’s announcement after being closed since March 21. “We had 157 room night cancellations in the 36 hours after the governor’s announcement.”
With tourists — many from Texas, Arizona, California and Colorado — coming back to Santa Fe in June, downtown hotels had climbed out of the deep hole of April and early May and were beginning to reach the 50 percent maximum occupancy line set by Lujan Grisham.
But then came last week’s executive order requiring travelers crossing into New Mexico to enter a 14-day self-quarantine before wandering out to undertake tourism pleasures.
“We basically lost half of our occupancy within a day for the Fourth of July weekend,” said Sam Gerberding, general manager of the Inn of the Governors. Occupancy was 30 percent for the holiday weekend after reaching the maximum 50 percent of rooms filled the prior three weekends. The next two months look no better than 25 percent to 40 percent occupancy, Gerberding said.
“Tonight we’ll be under 10 percent,” he said Wednesday.
In the spring, hotel room occupancy was low because nobody was traveling. The most recent trend, many hoteliers said, is troubling at best.
“It’s certainly more demoralizing than April,” said La Fonda on the Plaza general manager Rik Blyth. “The rug has been pulled out from under us. I could have had 50 percent occupancy for the rest of the week. We are running 35 percent.”
Blyth said 40 to 50 reservations, accounting for more than 150 room nights, had been canceled as of Wednesday due to news getting out about the quarantine.
However, some hotels are also seeing new bookings to counter the cancelations.
“We have seen a 50 percent cancelation rate, but many of those have been replaced by new reservations,” said Regina M. Ortiz, sales and marketing director at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. “There are those that are not comfortable traveling now. There are those that have a comfort level and still choose to travel.”
Ortiz did not disclose room occupancy rates but said occupancy has stabilized, albeit below the allowable 50 percent.
Heritage Hotel & Resorts reopened its Hotel St. Francis and Hotel Chimayó de Santa Fe on July 1 as the new 14-day quarantine went into effect. Heritage still plans to reopen Eldorado Hotel & Spa, Santa Fe’s largest hotel, July 15.
Hotel St. Francis and Hotel Chimayó de Santa Fe combined saw Fourth of July occupancy at about 30 percent with more cancelations than bookings since July 1, but more specific details were not given in a statement provided by Heritage.
Inn of the Five Graces co-owner Sylvia Seret wrote in an email the hotel “had been approaching a sense of normalcy with up to 50 percent occupancy on weekends. “(The quarantine) for out of state guests brought on a wave of guest cancellations and further uncertainty. We can only hope that this quarantine requirement is lifted soon and in the meantime would welcome more in-state staycation guests.”
Hotels report guests have been compliant with mask regulations on property. Hotels inform guests of regulations as they check in. Some call or email guests a couple of days before they arrive and leave mask reminders in rooms. The hotels also hand out masks to guests who don’t have one.
But it’s the 14-day quarantine, however, that rankles hotel operators.
New Mexico Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said last week out-of-state visitors account for about 9 percent to 10 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber on June 29 announced locals, not tourists, are causing new coronavirus cases.
“Why are you bringing an entire industry down to its knees?” said Jeff Mahan, executive director of the Santa Fe Lodgers Association. “The data doesn’t justify such a severe 14-day quarantine.”
Several hoteliers said tourists have been accosted by locals or have gotten a cold shoulder while in town.
“Local people on the Plaza tell people to go home,” Schepps said. “Locals should not look at tourists as plague carriers.”
“It turns the clock back when years where there was a strong anti-tourist sentiment in the city,” Gerberding said.
In any case, travelers in neighboring states have gotten the message from Lujan Grisham.
“Pretty much every hotel lost July,” Schepps said.