As thousands of guardsmen check in, visitors are canceling reservations as they obey warnings from city officials to stay out of the district.
WASHINGTON – By this weekend, approximately 20,000 National Guard troops from across the country will be in the district to protect the city from the threats of a possible second inaugural attack.
Guardsmen dropped off buses at several hotels near the US Capitol and the National Mall. At least 120 guards were seen checking in at Hyatt Place Washington DC / National Mall.
The reservations contradict the roughly 40 cancellations made by hotel guests, as either the inauguration this year was virtual or, at the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser, for travelers to stay outside the district for safety reasons.
“Our hotel, if not the safest, is one of the safest,” said Dean Smalls, concierge at the front desk. “Given what was going on, I found her [guardsmen] pretty relaxed. “
Approximately 20,000 National Guard troops will be dispatched to DC for dedication week. For at least one hotel near the National Mall, guardsmen from different states provide the most guests. The last group that just checked in tells me they are from NY. @ wusa9 pic.twitter.com/WUYg3SeUKd
– Matthew Torres (@News_MTorres) January 14, 2021
The influx of military personnel is a big difference from the week before, when it was President Trump’s supporters who made up the majority of the guests at the National Mall. The general manager told WUSA9 that some of the guests vandalized some rooms, refused to wear masks, and destroyed and damaged property.
The manager claims they even wrote “Trump won” on paper menus and sheets.
Owner Geoffrey Griffis said he was discouraged by the impact the rioters and domestic terrorists have had on DC. He is concerned about the possible long-term impact this could have on the city’s culture and the hospitality industry as a whole, given the success they have already taken off from the pandemic.
While Griffis believes the warnings to stay out of the district are important, he wonders if this will affect more people who travel to the city without political justification.
“This has reached a new level,” he said. “Security is essentially a closure that even good people and law-abiding people cannot enjoy what the city has to offer. It will take a lot of work to get us back to where we have been and where we should be.”
Meanwhile, groups like Black Lives Matter DC and ShutDown DC have urged every hotel in DC to close completely between January 15th and January 21st. UNITE HERE Local 25, the hotel workers union that represents 7,200 DMV hotel workers, also called for hotels in the city to be closed to protect staff and the public. The union called for hotels to be closed unless they were hosting security guards or the National Guard. Local 25 also urged every hotel that houses security guards to allow its staff to opt out of reporting on work and allow them to leave at any time if they feel unsafe.
“Last week we watched in horror as insurgents terrorized the district, exposing our members and the general public to the risk of violence and exposure to COVID-19,” Executive Secretary and Treasurer John Boardman said in a statement. “Our Union has taken resolute action to protect our members and urged our hotels to evacuate. The threat has not resolved as we continue to hear reports of armed far-right militias planning to threaten Washington in the coming days!”
Owners like Griffis, while exempt from union demand, do not have the luxury of shutting down amid a pandemic.
“Personally, I don’t see how this will help the staff,” he said. “If we don’t have jobs, we can’t put food on our table.”
Hotels reported by Destination DC have already received cancellations as inauguration day will be virtual. Add the pandemic into the mix and hotels barely scratched the surface of the number of guests they had a year ago.
Recent data from Destination DC showed that the occupancy was 15% for the week of December 27 through January 2, but was 95% in 2017. It should be noted that the number of overnight stays in hotels was so high that the number reflects the overnight stays that were also booked by people in the city for both the inauguration and the women’s march.
Elliott L. Ferguson II, President and CEO of Destination DC, issued a statement to WUSA9:
“Mayor Muriel Bowser and President-elect Biden’s PIC have made it clear that staying home and practically celebrating the inauguration is beneficial in the face of the unprecedented attack on American democracy and the ongoing pandemic. Mayor Bowser has announced many additional precautionary measures and hotels are part of the local community that may add security measures given last week’s attack and the ongoing threat to our country as pointed out by the FBI.
The inauguration is usually a shot in the arm of the DC economy as visitors stay in hotels, dine in restaurants and experience the city and celebrate the new president. Given the current pandemic and security threats, as well as the closings of restaurants, museums and indoor attractions, we do not expect the inauguration to have any economic impact. “