At least seven hotels in the metro area are closed at the time, most of them victims of earnings numbers that turned red a year ago when people huddled.

Room reservations dried up as malls and non-essential stores closed for weeks, concerts and conventions were canceled, and companies turned to Zoom calls rather than face-to-face meetings.

Many rooms that would have been occupied by vacationers from Canada have also remained empty. The border with Canada was closed more than a year ago and will take another two weeks. This is part of an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which killed at least 550,000 people in the US alone in the last year.

Across North Dakota, about 30 hotels and motels have closed since mid-2019, many due to the economic disruption of the pandemic, a tourism official said Tuesday, April 6.

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The hotel owners are trying to do better.

Pinak Patel is the manager and co-owner of the Rodeway Inn in West Fargo. The budget hotel on 731 Main Ave. stays open even if nearby Howard Johnson by Wyndham West Fargo is closed due to the pandemic.

“We managed to keep it open. I think I survived, ”said Patel on Tuesday April 6th.


Patel said he participated in the Paycheck Protection Program and took out disaster loans that he had to repay.

A water tank had to be repaired and the hotel is in the process of renovating, even if it is serving its guests.

Business has been slow, but things will pick up when spring comes, he said.

“Very difficult time,” said Patel.

Other hotels in the metro area are on the same street, some with parking spaces so empty you can’t be sure they’re open unless you try the door.

At least seven of the 60+ hotels in the metro area were at least temporarily closed from April 5th to 6th, some of which had indications that COVID was the cause:

  • Quality Suites, 1415 35th St. S., Fargo

  • Kelly Inn, 4207 13th Ave. S., Fargo

  • Econo Lodge East, 1401 35th St. S., Fargo

  • Econo Lodge West, 3825 9th Ave. S., Fargo

  • Scandia Hotel, 717 4th St. N., Fargo

  • Red River Inn and Suites 901 38th St. S., Fargo

  • Howard Johnson, 525 Main Ave., West Fargo

The Howard Johnson Inn at 525 Main Ave.  E. in West Fargo is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  David Samson / The Forum

The Howard Johnson Inn at 525 Main Ave. E. in West Fargo is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Samson / The Forum

Of course, the closings are a moving target as some hotels closed at some point during the pandemic only to reopen later. And hotels that are now closed could reopen quickly if their owners decide the time is right.

Certainly, not all hotels that closed were closed due to pandemic losses alone. Some may have already shown poor returns, and the pandemic was the last straw. Other hotels may just have been on land, which has proven more valuable to other businesses than accommodation. The latter seems to be the case The Kelly Inn, from which Fargo City records appear, can be replaced with a car wash.

Other strategies also came into play. Hotels have closed entire floors while other guests have temporarily closed and directed to hotels owned by the same company.

“The hotel market has been depressed by the pandemic,” said Charley Johnson, President and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The entire hospitality industry was devastated.”

In the fourth week of March 2020, the occupancy rate of FM subway hotels was anemic 17.2%. This year, the occupancy rate had dropped to 54.2% for the week ended March 27th.

“That’s good. That’s good,” said Johnson. “So now we look like we’re really great.”

As of February this year, the local hotel occupancy rate was 48.6% (and about 35.3% nationally for North Dakota). In February 2020, just before COVID-19 hit the nation, occupancy was higher at 55.5% (47% nationwide), he said.

“That was the last really good business month last year,” said Johnson.

Hotel revenues have plummeted from the pandemic, Johnson said.

Revenue for the 2020 calendar year was 39.5% lower than 2019, he said. Revenue for that February was 25.6% lower than 2020, but that was “actually a big improvement,” Johnson said, as income between the 2020 holiday season and January was 30% lower than 2019.

Johnson believes revenue will continue to recover as tourism and sporting events return, vaccinations lower COVID-19 infection rates, and the economy generally improves.

“Well, for the rest of the year…. We’re going to look like gangbusters. It’s good. It’s kind of nice, ”said Johnson.

With the opening of the luxurious 125-room Jasper Hotel in the RDO building in downtown Fargo, the area will also receive a positive rating this spring.

Sara Otte Coleman, longtime director of tourism at the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said the changes in hotel occupancy trend lines over the past year have been sharp during the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationwide room occupancy, which approached 50% in February 2020, was below 20% by April. The occupancy had exceeded 50% in August 2020 but was still well below the summer occupancy of 2019, which was approaching 70%, said Otte Coleman. Utilization then dropped through October, November and December, she said.

The state has closed around 30 hotels since mid-2019, which corresponds to almost 600 rooms.

But things are getting better, she said.

“I think we’re seeing good growth. Last week Fargo was up again slightly by 54.2%, “she said.

Overall, the pandemic wasn’t good for the state’s travel industry, which supports 42,363 jobs.

North Dakota recorded 18.7 million visitors in 2020, down 21% from 2019. Those visitors in 2020 spent $ 2.1 billion, down 31.8% from 2019. While these visitors were in the year Paid $ 218.9 million in state and local taxes in 2020, also 27.1% from 2019, the tourism department said in its 2020 annual report.

Other statistics for 2020 include:

  • In North Dakota, hotel room sales decreased 30.4%.

  • Airport arrivals fell by 51.3%.

  • Canadian border crossings were down 77.1%.

“We worked very hard to support the hospitality industry during this pandemic,” she said. “Some of these companies lost 90% to 100% of their income over the course of a year.”

The state distributed $ 23.7 million in hospitality economic resilience grants, the 2020 report said. Another $ 8.4 million was awarded through the Hospitality ERG Plus program.

Otte Coleman said the state’s vast open spaces will provide visitors with plenty of worry-free vacation options as the pandemic eases. Despite the pandemic, visits to states and national parks increased marginally by 0.32% in 2020.

“I feel really good that we’re going to have a good upturn this summer,” said Otte Coleman.

Reopening the border with Canada will help in this case even if border crossings are restricted to the neighboring provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

“We lost over 500,000 visitor trips from Canada in the last year,” she said. “We are ready to welcome you back.”

Still, it will be a few years before vacation travel resumes. The business trip numbers could not rise again until 2025, said Otte Coleman.