Empty hotels: Hospitality Netherlands expects large wave of layoffs

The normally busy rooms, halls and corridors at the Mercure Amsterdam City Hotel are virtually empty. It hurts manager Francis Windt. “We don’t have that many guests in the house right now. Before the crisis it went very well, but now it’s dramatic. And that’s emotionally quite heavy.”

The Amsterdam hotel is certainly not the only hotel that is struggling. The corona crisis is hitting the sector hard. Business passenger traffic is virtually at a standstill, fairs and congresses have been cancelled en masse and tourists are still coming very slowly. As a result, the sector dives into the red numbers.

Thousands of redundancies

Many hotels are currently loss-making, says Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), which conducted research. Since June, hotels have had occupancy rates of barely 60 to 70 percent. In the big cities, especially Amsterdam, it is even around 25 percent. There is no prospect of improvement yet.

“The distressing thing is that politicians and consumers have the idea of the last few months with full terraces and nice weather and think: the hospitality industry is doing well again. But for the hotels, especially in the big cities, this absolutely does not apply”, says LHN director Dirk Beljaarts.

He expects large waves of redundancies. “For the whole sector, this will involve thousands of redundancies. Between 50,000 and 100,000 jobs for the entire hospitality industry.”

Although all hotels are affected by the crisis, some hoteliers expect to get off with fewer clothes cracks. So is the Zoku Hotel in Amsterdam. “We’re hybrid, we’re between a hotel and an office, and we’re doing a lot better than other hotels in Amsterdam,” says Hans Meyer, co-founder of Zoku.

He explains that the hotel rents out so-called ‘worklofts’: a room in which the bed is concealed and the workplace is central. “Guests come here to live and work for longer periods of time. There are also many people who come to work here for the day. That’s why it’s quite busy here.”

The hotel had an occupancy of 80 percent in August. “But at a somewhat lower price. Normally at this time of the year we turn over 90 percent”, says Meyer. He thinks that for ‘traditional’ hotels that are more similar in concept, times will be tough for a long time to come.

Innovate

“If you all have rooms with a bed in the middle, there’s not much you can do about it. You can, of course, convert them, but that would require major investment. Many hotels will have to try to survive and hope this situation won’t last very long.”

LHN director Beljaart also says: “Innovating hotels into a different form of business is not always that easy, you don’t just have money to build a kitchen in every room, for example”

Bunk in Amsterdam-North also does it just a bit different from other hotels and still has quite a lot of guests. The hotel is located in an old church and has not only rooms, but also ‘pods’ in which you can sleep. Owner Robin Hagedoorn shows us around.

“We keep a strong grip by devising all kinds of coronaproof plans and measures,” says Windt from Mercure. The hotel now organises ‘hybrid’ events. “Where normally everyone would sit in a room listening to a speaker, now only the speaker sits in the room and the event is streamed to the participants”

The hotel also has thirty longstay rooms. “They have a kitchenette so you could live there.” At the moment there are no guests yet, but the hotel is counting on them to come. “We hope that next year the general public will come again. A vaccine would help us a lot.”