The winter freeze has given hotels in Houston and across Texas a temporary boost, as the industry continues to struggle from low demand during the pandemic.
Before the storm, hotel occupancy stood at just 43% in Houston and 47% in Texas. But when snow, sleet and frigid temperatures hit the region — knocking out power for millions and freezing pipes — thousands of people were looking for a place with heat and water.
Room occupancy increased to about 52% at Houston hotels and 56% Texas-wide during the storm, the highest in 50 weeks according to Isaac Collazo, vice president of analytics at hotel data company STR.
"It was a movement, but it's still nowhere near what Houston normally sees in a given year," he said. "But again, COVID is really suppressing demand."
Hotels were not immune from the power and water outages, but those in downtown Houston, for example, never lost power.
The Hilton-Americas did lose water from Tuesday through Friday, but staff delivered bottled water for guests and pool water to flush toilets, according to Houston First Corporation, which owns the hotel.
Collazo said last week hotel occupancy in Houston was 77% of what it was in 2019, an improvement from 67% the previous week.
But he didn't expect that number to increase anytime soon. Before that happens, more people have to be vaccinated and group meetings need to return, along with general travel.
Collazo did expect the bump from last week to last a little longer, as many people are still dealing with busted pipes and water damage at home.
And on top of that, people will likely travel in from out of town to address the aftermath of the storm.
"We expect insurance adjusters to move into hotels,” he said, “because they have to adjust all the businesses and residences that were damaged."