The lockdown is hitting the hotel sector hard. One in three hotels is currently closed, while others have only a handful of guests. The hotels are fighting for a future — even if no one yet knows when that might happen.
Suitcases being wheeled, cell phones ringing, interspersed by the voices of guests arriving and departing — that’s probably what it would be like at the Novotel Berlin Am Tiergarten these days if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic. These days, with Germany in lockdown, the 274-bed hotel is as good as empty. The spacious lobby with its light-colored marble floor is deserted, and only one employee can be seen, sitting alone at the reception desk. Because of the hygiene regulations in force, she is sitting behind a plexiglass screen.
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“At first, it was very, very strange that it was suddenly so quiet here,” says Sebastian Loelf, the hotel’s deputy director. Otherwise, the hotel is usually quite busy, even during the winter, he says. Most of the guests here are on business trips — they are visiting trade fairs or coming for professional meetings. Business people can still stay at the hotel now. However, there are not many of them who travel for work during the pandemic.
Loelf does not want to say more precisely by what percentage the occupancy rate of the hotel has decreased during the COVID crisis. On the whole, however, it will be similar to the situation everywhere in Berlin. According to the Hotel and Restaurant Association, the sector has suffered massively. Sales per available room — an important factor in the hotel industry — fell by almost 80% between the beginning of the pandemic last March and the end of the year.
To generate some extra income, some hotels offer “home office in the hotel” — the Novotel Berlin Am Tiergarten also does this. People can then rent a room for the day to work in at a reduced price. For example, if they can’t find peace and quiet at home because their children are attending school remotely. Without naming specific figures, Loelf says that the daily hotel office rental option “has been well received.”