Tourism across the globe has cratered since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 and across the country since the major domestic onset of the coronavirus in March.
Cleveland has fared worse than most, thanks to the cancellation of almost all events, conventions, Playhouse Square shows, orchestra concerts, concerts and spectator bans or limits at professional sports games.
Destination Cleveland, the local tourism bureau charged with marketing the city and drawing visitors, has done what it could, launching a three-pronged "Clean Committed" campaign in May with a summer-long focus
on getting locals to do the things that out-of-towners usually would.
Still, things have been bleak.
Destination Cleveland announced in late September that it would lay off nearly half of its staff due to budget reasons. That budget is mostly funded through a Cuyahoga County bed tax.
And the hotel business, especially in Cleveland, has not been good.
Downtown hotel occupancy rates at the start of the pandemic were in the single digits. (At one point, we'd heard the Hilton had only 14 out of its 602 rooms booked.) They climbed over the summer to the low 40s but now sit at 31.7%, down from an average of 70% last year and trailing the six-county region-wide average of 41.3%, statewide average of 44.2% and the nationwide average of 48.2%.
And the bad news goes beyond the numbers.
Condé Nast Traveler just unveiled its annual Readers' Choice awards based on a poll of more than 715,000 travelers and users and Cleveland was shut out of the whole shebang, even the Midwest-specific rankings.
Cincinnati got two nods. Rochester, MI made the list. Detroit, Kansas City, Minneapolis too.
It's the third straight year Cleveland has been shut out. (The last time the Forest City made an appearance was in 2017
when the then-recently opened Kimpton-Schofield made the Midwest list.)
What hotels are making news in Cleveland recently, you may ask?
Well, one of the companies run by the Ukranian oligarchs who used American real estate to launder stolen funds is now facing a foreclosure lawsuit over the Westin Hotel
, which it owns. Filings show Optima 777 owes more than $32 million in mortgage principal, interest and fees.
And the Hilton was given a $7.9 million bailout
by Cuyahoga County in July.
Far as we can tell, the only good news coming out of the Cleveland hotel sector this year is the story of the west-side hotel that gave up its rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic
But it is awards season and we can't let the locals go unrecognized. So, Cleveland, congrats on claiming the winner of The Best Midwest American Hotel at the Center of an International Money Laundering Scheme award and The Best Rooftop View From a Publicly-Financed Boondoggle crown. Your plaques are in the mail.