ALBANY – The confluence of a days-long power outage in some communities and Columbus Day weekend means that many in the Capital Region who are seeking shelter in local hotels will likely be left shivering, in the dark, at home.
Hotels in and around the Capital Region are largely booked with leaf peepers and National Grid crews. Thus, the 46,000 National Grid and 130 NYSEG customers still without power as of late Friday afternoon who were hoping to book a room for a night or two until their electricity is restored after Wednesday’s thunderstorm are having to make a lot of calls to book a room.
“I’ve been told that 600 rooms were needed for work crews,” said Jill Delaney, president and CEO of Discover Albany. “That’s not typical, but they couldn’t double up because of COVID. Each crew person needs an individual space. But there are still some (hotels) taking bookings online.”
Delaney said she is sympathetic to those living in the hardest-hit areas, which National Grid reports to be in Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties. Some of those customers, National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said, might be without power until Sunday. Most, he said, will have power restored by Saturday night.
Deanna Smith, the assistant manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Schenectady, said her hotel is booked solid this weekend.
“We picked up about 20 people, one local couple came in, but we didn’t have much to offer,” she said. “We were quite slow, but we have a lot of travelers coming in.”
Four Points by Sheraton, a new hotel that opened Aug. 19 in Albany near the border with Bethlehem, one the areas where thousands are still without power, is full up too.
Even a trip up the Northway won’t guarantee a room. Darryl Leggieri, president of Discover Saratoga Springs, said Spa City hotels are already booked with tourists.
“A lot of our hotels had strong demand from the leisure market,” Leggieri said. “A lot of people from the driving markets, a lot of people from New York City, wanting to come up and experience the beauty of our region. There are also a lot of National Grid teams coming in. Some of the hotels had to turn them away because they were already sold out.
Despite this weekend’s surge in bookings, the hotel industry has been hurting in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Hotel and Lodging Association released a report in August that noted the “hotel industry remains on the brink of collapse” with two thirds of hotels remaining at or below 50 percent occupancy. But the combination of fall colors, a three-day weekend and many power outages after Wednesday’s severe storm blew has elevated the demand for rooms locally.
“There is definitely a boost to the hotels,” Delaney said. “But it’s not a great reason for hotel numbers to go up.”
Leggieri agreed, but said solid bookings are a flicker of good news for the Saratoga Springs hotels that were going into the winter season with little business. The hotel’s fall and winter mainstays, convention-goers, have evaporated as the Saratoga Springs City Center remains virtually shutdown.
“There is not a lot of activity, but there is still leisure demand,” Leggieri said. “We will take anything we can get right now.”
NYSEG’s customers were fully restored by Friday night.