Pee Dee hotels hopeful ahead of uncertain travel season

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — As the holiday travel season picks up, hotels in the Pee Dee are hoping for a boost in business. But as concern about the coronavirus only seems to intensify, it’s unclear how much they’ll be able to cash in.

AAA released it’s Thanksgiving travel forecast earlier this month. While the travel agency anticipates a drop in travelers of at least 10 percent, the number of people expected to hit the road is much closer to that of last year (4.3 percent dip) than the number of people expected to fly (47.5 percent dip)

“That is great news,” Will Clark of Holiday Inn Express & Suites said. He’s the general manager of the location near the I-95, I-20 interchange in Florence. “Hopefully that actually shows in the next month or two.”

AAA expects many to stay closer to home this year. Despite that, Clark says he’s seen more travelers come through his doors.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve actually a growth in our occupancy,” he said. “It’s helped. We’ve actually had a pretty busy last two to three weeks. It’s been nice.”

Chad Patterson is the VP of Raldex Hospitality, which is over the Holiday Inn and four other hotels in Florence. He’s also the President of the Florence Chapter of the SC Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“The business travel we normally get is non-existent,” he said. “So we really are relying on people coming through and staying in hotels off the interstate .”

Patterson of course hopes for a big travel season after a tough year, but says it’s hard to predict.

“People are really skeptical about whether they’ll travel or not,” he said. “So they’re not making the reservations two weeks out… They’re waiting to the last minute to say ‘okay, we’re going to go.'”

The CDC has urged people not to travel for the holiday.

But if you do find yourself on the road, Patterson says many hotels are keeping things especially clean.

“Stop into the hotel and ask to look around. See what they’re doing,” Patterson suggested. “See what kind of precautions they’re taking. See if they have hand sanitizing machines. Is there plexiglass at the front desk.”

“It’s most important you feel comfortable where you’re staying,” he said.

AAA also recommends calling ahead to inquire about COVID precautions.

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