US hotels suffered worst year ever with nearly zero profit

Patrick Clark

U.S. hotels recorded the lowest occupancy rates on record in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic kept travelers at home and ate up lodging industry profits.

Hotel occupancy was just 44% for the year, down from 66% in 2019 and the lowest number on record, according to data provider STR. The industry passed 1 billion unsold rooms for the first time in history, topping the previous record of 786 million in 2009.

A information sign is seen at the Hilton Orrington/Evanston in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021.

The industry will likely show nearly zero profit for the year, STR said.

Industry experts expect a slow recovery, with occupancy rates staying below 2019 levels through 2024. Even now, as vaccination efforts boost hopes for a boom in leisure travel, the rampant virus is depressing demand, and it’s hard to say when corporate travelers and meeting planners will start booking rooms again.