The Ritz Carlton drives business
The Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay, is the main driver of Transient Occupancy Taxes in Half Moon Bay. It did not immediately respond to questions about how the threat of coronavirus might be affecting its business. Review file photo

This week more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in at least 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Beyond threatening lives, the disease has had devastating effects on international money markets and is hurting businesses and tourist attractions worldwide. The financial impacts are beginning to be felt here on the Coastside.

Dana Dahl is general manager of the Beach House Hotel and chairs the Half Moon Bay Hotel Business Improvement District. She said many of the hotels and restaurants here are experiencing declines in their typical March business. She acknowledges there is nothing typical about this month.

“We are anticipating getting through this as a community,” she said.

Dahl said at least three conferences have canceled their events planned for the Beach House, but she is hopeful that the businesses will reschedule their programming for later this year.

At the Beach House Hotel, Dahl said managers are continuing to evaluate procedures for guest and staff safety. This includes having hand sanitizer available in the lobby, washing hands more frequently, disinfecting all common surface areas daily, increasing a focus on cleaning procedures for room cleanings and disinfecting the key cards for the hotel rooms when they are returned by guests.

“We are trying to maintain business as usual,” she said.

Dahl said it is too early to tell the long-term effects of the crisis.

“We are not trying to overreact,” Dahl said. “Like everyone else, we are waiting to see how the event unfolds and are reacting appropriately.”

President and CEO of the San Mateo County and Silicon Valley Convention Visitors Bureau John Hutar said partner hotels have reported cancelations from groups out of the country as well as smaller corporate meetings and tour groups. He said the larger issue for the bureau and region is the cancellation of large conventions that bring in thousands of people needing to stay in hotel rooms.

“The immediate impact is not yet exactly understood,” he said.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, which is a subsidiary of Marriott International, did not respond to questions about the impact locally. However, Marriott International is waiving cancellation fees for hotel stays through March 31 for guests traveling from any of the impacted countries.

Hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts in Half Moon Bay are responsible for about 40 percent of the city’s revenue through transient occupancy taxes.

City Manager Bob Nisbet said that it’s challenging to predict what will happen to that revenue. The latest numbers reported are from December 2019, which showed the city is on track to remain a balanced budget. But with the impact of the coronavirus becoming apparent, Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester said, “We will still be OK. We have a contingency plan in place, but we do expect to see a decrease in TOT over the next couple of months.”

When the city adopted its 2019-2020 fiscal year budget it created a rainy-day fund intended as a savings account in case of a natural disaster or financial crisis.

And the financial hit is only one consideration. Chidester said the city is taking direction from San Mateo County’s Health Department and following the recommendation to cancel any non-essential events. At press time, however, no city event had been canceled.

“We are trying to accommodate a balance of what is right to protect the community but also try and maintain a sense of normalcy.”

He said the city’s been in contact with the local hospitality industry and some hotel owners directly and is aware those businesses have been hurt.

“We do not have numbers yet, but the projections that we have so far this fiscal year are likely going to change,” Chidester said.

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