GREAT FALLS — The pandemic continues to take a toll on the hotel industry, including here in Great Falls. As of Wednesday, the Wingate by Wyndham and the Travelodge by Wyndham in Great Falls were temporarily closed due to a lack of business.
The city’s economic development and tourism organizations say this doesn’t mean the sky is falling, however.
"This quarter is going to be very difficult,” said Great Falls Development Authority CEO Brett Doney. Doney said the first quarter of 2021 is the most concerning of all since the pandemic began.
That's why the agency is doing everything it can to help businesses. "One, is working with businesses to help them adapt to the ever-changing economy and pandemic environment,” Doney explained. "The second thing we're doing is to help every new startup and real estate project and what have you get going."
Also helping is the area's outdoor recreation opportunities, which he says may attract people to the area as they hesitate to go to more crowded places like theme parks.
Visit Great Falls Montana Tourism director Rebecca Engum said the temporary hotel closures highlight how tourism continues to suffer. "Very, very concerned about what the next three to six to 18 months are going to look like and how our industry can sustain that,” said Engum.
All hope is not lost though. "The industry will recover, it's just, at what point?” Engum said.
She said the employees at one of the two hotels had found temporary jobs as of Wednesday and were expected to be hired back when the hotel reopens.
Wyndham sent the following statement to KRTV in response to the temporary closures: The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for hotel owners and small business owners and in response, we have worked with our franchisees to provide flexibility and fee relief while also looking for new ways to drive business to their hotels. Though the vast majority of our properties remain open and are welcoming guests, we know there are small business owners who are struggling and may be forced to close without further governmental support. We continue to do all that we can to advocate on their behalf.