Greater Boston tourism is improving, but projections remain gloomy

Tourism in Greater Boston seems to be improving lately – the US Open at Brookline this week is giving local hotels and restaurants a big boost, while Freedom Trail tours and ducks look busy – but the latest The American Hotel & Lodging Association report projects a loss in travel revenue this year for state hotels of more than 44% from 2019, a loss of nearly $1 billion.

“The City of Boston and the State of Massachusetts ended up losing about $5 billion in tax revenue that they otherwise would have had, had travel trends continued to come out of 2019 – and that’s significant. It impacts everyone. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost and those are starting to come back,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Rogers spoke at a Friday press event at the Omni Parker House hotel in Boston, where local trade groups projected some outward optimism, saying pent-up demand for leisure travel was evident in the numbers spring solids for Greater Boston, and that conferences and business meetings were “back on track,” according to Beth Stehley, senior vice president of sales at the Greater Boston Convention Visitors Bureau.

Yet within the hospitality industry itself, there is a sense that the state needs to do much more to help the sector — Massachusetts’ third-largest employer — get back on its feet fully.

“As you watch your television at night on network stations, and you watch states like New York and California and others and the promotions that they do to promote their states, we don’t We’ve never been in a Massachusetts position to do that,” Stephen Johnston told GBH News. Johnston is the general manager and general manager of the Boston Harbor Hotel and chairman of the board of the Massachusetts Lodging Association.

“There’s an enormous amount of tax collected from us as hospitality providers every year that goes into the general fund, and only the tiniest part of it – and I really mean the tiniest part — is spent promoting the state for future visits,” Johnston added. “And that has been the case for a very long time. And we hoped that this crisis would lead to a change and an awareness that it is necessary to invest in order to develop the future business. But still, it seems that our requests have fallen into the ear It’s a real shame, and it puts us at a huge disadvantage compared to other states.

Johnston said his five-star hotel in downtown Boston was in a better position than many and weathered the overall pandemic financial downturn relatively well. He said they actually had some good business last summer and were hoping – albeit “sitting on the edge” of their seat – for another strong season.

Still, Johnston said, a general sense of a rosy outlook for Greater Boston hotels this summer could be misleading.

“For example, if you hear that the hotels are doing well this week, the US Open is in town, the hotels are full…no one would deny that,” Johnston said. “But just because hotels are doing well this week doesn’t necessarily mean they’re having a great summer or a great 2022. It takes more than a sip to make a summer. And that’s part of the problem. You know, you hear these messages that places are doing well, but it’s not widespread and it’s not every week of the year.

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