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How have past outbreak situations affected U.S. hotel demand?

To help answer that question, we look at the times around SARS and N1H1 (also referred to as ‘swine flu’) in 2003. 

Below are the demand impact numbers for both of those events. The way to parse this data is to compare the impact by geographical region to gain a sense of impact near the source and then translate that impact into demand shifts in the U.S.

We chose as starting points hotel demand in Mexico to understand the N1H1 impact and Thailand for SARS (knowing, of course, that this was an Asia-wide situation).
Key points for those regions:

1.    The situation gets much worse before it gets better.
2.    The demand impact was actually fairly short-lived.
3.    Demand started to grow again six and nine months after the WHO warnings.
4.    Keep in mind that N1H1 in Mexico happened right after the Financial Crisis, which likely affected recovery times.


SARS and N1H1 impact on U.S. hotel demand

So how did that translate to U.S. demand?

We charted the data on the same scale as the Mexico/Thailand data to provide a sense of magnitude (or sense of relative smallness as it were).

Lower impact on U.S. hotel demand for SARS and N1H1 outbreaks

A relatively smaller decrease in demand can be observed, but it is worth noting in the 2009 data that the U.S. hotel industry was still in a state of recovery from the Financial Crisis, so N1H1 *may* have prolonged that recovery period.

Here are the monthly demand declines for the U.S. These decreases are not insignificant, but certainly not at all at the magnitude of the decreases near the outbreak centers.

Monthly demand declines for U.S. hotels following SARS and N1H1

In conclusion:

  • These two outbreak situations had a noticeable impact on countries close to the outbreak centers.
  • The U.S. demand impact was muted.
  • Sharp demand declines were not unusual, but they are also relatively short-lived.