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El Paso hotel industry braces for fallout from Sun Bowl cancellation

EL PASO, Texas -- The latest economic hit from the Covid-19 pandemic to impact the Borderland is the loss of the 2020 Sun Bowl, which was officially canceled on Tuesday.

It represents a major loss for the local hotel and lodging industry.

The El Paso Marriott was set to host the two participating teams.

That cancellation sets the hotel and lodging industry up for a revenue loss of at least $800,000, industry leaders say.

According to the president of the El Paso Hotel and Lodging Association, most hotels were enjoying a healthy occupancy rate in the high 70’s throughout most of 2019.

Entering December, that number has now dropped to the low 50’s across the board and will most likely remain there longer due to the game's cancellation.

One small silver lining that is helping those businesses during this especially difficult time is the arrival of 1,500 traveling nurses who have come to help with Covid-19 patients and are now staying in hotels across the city.

"We have seen an increase in the amount of traveling nurses here in the city," said Marco Ortega, president of the El Paso Hotel and Lodging Association. "It is something that is really needed and something we are very thankful for. The hospitality community here is very thankful and happy to make sure they have a place to stay."

A recent economic impact study done by the Sun Bowl Association found that the game brings in close to $25 million each year.

The teams that play in the game usually fly into the Borderland on Dec. 26.

This year's game was scheduled for Dec. 31, its traditional date. 

Ortega also said that even if a vaccine for the virus arrives soon, any long-term positive changes in travel, tourism and occupancy rates still won’t be noticeable for at least another three months.

“The hospitality industry has never seen this type of loss of occupancy and revenue," Ortega said. "This is unprecedented and there is simply nothing that can be compared to this.”

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Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon is an ABC-7 reporter who co-anchors Good Morning El Paso weekends.


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