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Despite pandemic and staff shortage, hotels are moving forward


September 29, 2021


Catherine schulte

One of Virginia’s oldest businesses, the Omni Homestead Resort & Spa in Bath County is slated to reopen its renovated Warm Springs pools in late 2022. Photo courtesy of Omni Homestead Resort & Spa

It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is suffering from the ongoing pandemic. Although widespread closures are in the past, hotel executives are now faced with the industry’s labor shortage and the slow recovery in business travel. In July, hotel revenues were down 3% from the same month in 2019, according to data from STR Inc., a division of the CoStar Group that provides market data on the hospitality industry in the United States.

Although tourist travel has returned toPandemic levels in Virginia Beach this summer, business and government travel continue to lag, notes Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association.

Hotels continue to adapt, however, adding technology to enable hybrid meetings and updating security protocols, with many hotels and conference centers focusing on open-air meeting areas that are considered to be safer by public health officials. Many have also continued with renovations and large openings despite the current challenges.

Here is the latest news from around the state:

Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront Oceanfront Terrace
Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront Oceanfront Terrace

Central Virginia

The multi-million dollar renovations of the 18-story downtown Richmond Marriott were completed in December. The 410-room hotel has a walkway leading to the Greater Richmond Convention Center and offers six event rooms and 24 breakout rooms. Its meeting space totals 26,700 square feet and the largest space can accommodate 2,000 people. The ballroom can be set up for virtual meetings. On September 23, the Fall Line Kitchen & Bar comfort food restaurant opened in the hotel.

In eastern Albemarle County, Keswick Hall was due to reopen in October after extensive renovations. The hotel has 80 rooms and suites, a golf course, a new spa and a new restaurant, Marigold, French language chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The resort’s meeting room can accommodate 20 people and teleconferences, and the ballroom can be divided to hold a general session and a small group space for up to 200 people.

Hampton Roads

The $ 125 million Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront opened in June 2020 as part of Gold Key | Cavalier Resort by PHR, an extension of the Historic Cavalier Hotel & Beach Club. With 305 guest rooms, 11 meeting rooms, and a total of 20,300 square feet of event space, including a ballroom overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the hotel is a significant addition to the Oceanfront area. Hotel facilities include a business center, meeting room and breakout room. The resort’s outdoor spaces – seven lawns and the beach – have grown in popularity, Gold Key CEO Bruce Thompson said, as have the team-building exercises.

“They do everything from a variety of sporting events and scavenger hunts to lawn meetings and all kinds of activities,” says Thompson. “We give them little metal detectors and they go out and try to find things on the beach that we are planting or coins or something like that.”

The Gold Key properties – the two hotels at Cavalier Resort and Hilton Norfolk The Main – offer three conference options, a mix of in-person and virtual meetings. Both sites require employees to have proof of vaccination or wear masks.

Sheraton Reston Business Center
Sheraton Reston Business Center

Northern virginia

The six-story Sheraton Reston reopened on August 6 after completing renovations to its nine reception rooms and 12 breakout rooms which total 18,600 square feet. The largest the space can hold 550 people. Additions include a backyard, a new 1,800 square foot gym as well as a media room and a studio.

Located 12 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport, the Landsdowne The Leesburg Resort and Spa recently renovated its ballroom and meeting spaces. The resort offers 55,000 square feet of meeting space, including an outdoor pavilion and recreational activities like golf and spa treatments.

Shenandoah Valley

The 483-room Omni Homestead Resort in Bath County reopened in June 2020 after closing for three months due to the pandemic. One of the oldest businesses in the state, The Homestead has been open since 1766 and was purchased by Omni in 2013. After a few years of delay and extensive renovations, the hotel’s former Jefferson Pools – now known as Warm Springs Pools – owned by the Homestead set to reopen at the end of 2022.

The 550-acre resort offers 23 meeting rooms with a total of 72,000 square feet, although John Hess, Homestead’s director of marketing and sales, says its outdoor venues have become more popular over the past year, while such as team building activities. Hotel staff also worked with the organizers to organize virtual meetings.

Blue Ridge Conference Center at the Roanoke Hotel & Conference Center
Blue Ridge Conference Center at the Roanoke Hotel & Conference Center

“It appears that the desire to get out and travel is currently outweighing fears of having a reunion during this pandemic,” Hess says, “but I think the dynamics are starting to change,” as cases increase due to of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Roanoke / Southwest Virginia

The Roanoke Hotel & Conference Center, part of the Curio by Hilton Collection, completed the $ 3.6 million renovation of its Pine Room Pub and 1882 Lobby Bar in September 2020. The hotel has 63 000 square feet of meeting space consisting of 34 meeting areas and a 14,400 square foot ballroom. A significant portion of the budget – $ 480,000 – was spent updating infrastructure and equipment to allow hybrid meetings.

In Bristol, the Nicewonder Inn is expected to be opened in late autumn at the Nicewonder Farm and Vineyards. A 28-room lakefront boutique inn, the property focuses on fine dining (with chef named James Beard Travis Milton opening a restaurant, Hickory, on-site) and can seat 300 or more indoors or out. outside.

The Nicewonder Inn is slated to open in late fall at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol.
The Nicewonder Inn is slated to open in late fall at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol.

South virginia

The Bee, a boutique hotel, opened in December in the former office of the Danville Register & Bee newspaper. The conversion retained such elements as the original wood floors and the spiral staircase that led from the press room to the editor’s office. With 47 rooms and a rooftop veranda, The Bee offers a mix of old and new to downtown Danville.

Related: The Largest Conference Hotels In Virginia

Meeting planners roll with the punches

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