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‘Graduation being canceled — that killed us’: Oxford hotels at a loss

<p>The cancellation of graduation has caused Oxford hotels to take a big financial hit. </p>

The cancellation of graduation has caused Oxford hotels to take a big financial hit.

Like other local businesses, hotels in Oxford are heavily affected by Miami University event traffic. Spring typically brings lots of bookings for graduation and move-out season, but since the novel coronavirus caused cancellations across campus, hotels have been seeing a halt in reservations like never before. 

Among the hotels in Oxford, the Hueston Woods Lodge, The Elms Hotel and The Marcum Hotel & Conference Center have all closed amid the pandemic.

The Baymont Inn has remained open, but now it’s run by only two workers: one front desk employee and the general manager. 

“It’s hard, but we can do it,” said Lisa Ross, the front desk employee at the Baymont Inn. “We just have to do the first, second and third shifts.”

Ross said the hotel had to make budget cuts and let go of eight to 10 workers. 

Ross said the Baymont currently gets around 15 to 20 people a night, but right after Miami canceled in-person classes, the hotel had only five people staying at a time. 

“Graduation being canceled — that killed us,” Ross said.

Kathy Butterfield, the general manager at Best Western Sycamore Inn, said the graduation cancellations were felt there, too.

“As soon as the word got out that graduation was canceled, within a matter of minutes, we lost $34,000 because of people canceling,” Butterfield said. “I’ve been here for 29 years, and I’ve never seen that.”

Butterfield said she had to furlough several employees but was able to bring six back after the company filed for a loan. Four of her employees are Miami football players, who she says are very helpful. 

As for guests, Butterfield said there are multiple days where no one is staying.

“We’ve closed our entire second floor,” Butterfield said. “When a guest checks out, the room has to sit for 24 hours before we strip it.”

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In the fall, Butterfield said she expects to still be operating similarly, though it depends on the company’s standards. 

Oxford’s Hampton Inn remains open for doctors and first responders.

Nancy Skiles, the front desk employee at The Hampton Inn, said the hotel sees an average of seven people a week — only one person a day. 

“[The hotel] is very empty right now,” Skiles said. “We have a skeleton crew who cleans and sanitizes. We’re just trying to keep the place as clean as possible.”

When a guest leaves, Skiles said the room is left empty for seven days to ensure employees are safe.

“Graduation was the biggest disappointment,” Skiles said, “but we have to keep people safe, and that’s our number one concern, from guests to employees to anyone that walks through our doors.”

More than half of the Hampton Inn's staff was let go due to budget cuts. Skiles said only two housekeepers and four front desk employees are left. 

Sydne Blackburn, a senior international studies major, has worked at The Hampton Inn for two years and said she felt lucky to keep her job.

Blackburn said her manager asked her to take on more hours after some of her co-workers were let go. She works around 35 hours a week now. Blackburn said she still wants to work more so she can have some money for life post-graduation. 

“I’m a senior, so I’m looking for jobs and that just is kind of impossible right now,” Blackburn said. “If I can’t get a job, I need to have some savings.” 

Butterfield said the loan she received from the Best Western corporation helped some of her employees with their financial situations. 

Looking to the future for her hotel, Butterfield said she’s doing everything she can to get people to come and stay.

“After they announced that graduation would be in September, we had a lot of parents calling back asking if they could move their reservation to September,” Butterfield said, “which is awesome for us because we can gain the revenue back that we lost this May, but it still hurts.”

For the Baymont Inn, Ross said some people have started to make reservations, and she hopes it will be back to normal by the fall.

At The Hampton Inn, Skiles said people are trying to get fall dates, too, but said those dates were already booked for sporting events, so they’re sold out for September and October weekends.

“Everything is pretty much dictated by the governor and the president,” said Skiles. “We have to do what we’re told to do, and it will all depend on what they decide.”