Airbnb, hotels seek US government aid as demand flattens

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President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with tourism industry executives about the coronavirus, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

U.S. hotel companies are seeking $150 billion in direct aid for their workers for what they say is an unprecedented fall-off in demand because of the new coronavirus.

CEOs of Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and other chains met Tuesday with President Donald Trump to describe the impact and seek help.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta told the president that Hilton has never closed a hotel that wasn't slated for remodeling or demolition in its 100-year history. Now, several Hilton hotels in big U.S. cities are closed and worldwide, its hotels are only 10% to 15% occupied. Last year, the average U.S. occupancy rate was 67%.

"I’ve been doing this for 35 years. Never seen anything like it,” Nassetta told Trump.

Marriott said it's reducing workers' hours and starting to furlough what could eventually become tens of thousands of workers. Workers will retain their health benefits, the company said.

Chip Rogers, CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a lobbying group, said the virus has already had more impact on the U.S. hotel industry than the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession combined.

Since mid-February, U.S. hotels have lost an estimated $1.5 billion in room revenue, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Those losses are rapidly accelerating, with the industry on pace to lose $1.4 billion per week.

The hotel industry expects 1 million U.S. jobs have already been eliminated or will be in the next few weeks.