Burlingame officials interested in offering a lifeline to a travel industry ravaged by the pandemic will lobby state officials to allow small group gatherings in local hotels.

The Burlingame City Council will weigh a proposal Monday, Sept. 21, to request authorization from Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow the city’s hotels to host gatherings of 50 people or fewer.

The discussion comes at the request of local hoteliers whose industry has been severely stunted by the loss of travel and convention business during the public health crisis.

John Hutar, president and CEO of the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, expressed his appreciation to Burlingame officials for discussing the matter.

“Our goal is to be part of the solution — a solution that is transparent reflecting the well-being of attendees and economic health of our industry,” he said in an email. “I have full confidence that we can get there.”

Regarding the health hazards potentially posed by allowing gatherings, Hutar said local hotels have implemented the highest safety standards and offer ample space to adequately observe social distancing standards.

“We are fortunate to have so many hotels with massive amounts of space which can accommodate smaller sized groups socially distanced for the COVID-era,” he said.

More broadly though, he said companies seeking to complete certification trainings, host review meetings or otherwise conduct business challenging in remote settings are ready to gather again.

“Hotels along the SFO corridor are even better positioned to host such events given ease of air travel and distance from a corporation’s local office,” he said.

The request to allow gatherings is in keeping for the standards for places of worship, which have been limited due to the threat of COVID-19 spreading, noted a city staff report.

Recognizing the city’s reliance on tax revenue generated by stays at local hotels, the staff report suggested meetings of up to 50 people would increase occupancy and give businesses a needed boost.

Following the mid-March county health order requiring residents shelter in place, the hotel industry, like many, experienced huge drops in revenue, said tourism officials who anticipated it would take years for travel businesses to rebound.

Hotels along the Bayshore would normally see occupancy filled at nearly 90% largely due to traffic from the San Francisco International Airport, but those numbers dropped to single digits in March, April and May. The Burlingame report suggests occupancy levels are currently 20% of capacity.

The once $1.1 billion industry in 2019 is expected to lose up to 60% of revenue for 2020 according to conservative estimates, said officials in July.

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