Hotel at UMD hopes suburban setting a pandemic selling point for DC visitors


Southern Management Corp.

The Lobby of the Hotel at the University of Maryland.

The Hotel at the University of Maryland announced it will re-open June 1, 2020, operating under special procedures designed to keep the facility clean. But the hotel, like many businesses in Maryland, has been hard hit by the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. How it fares could be an early sign of things to come for business and local governments, such as College Park, that rely on hotel and amusement taxes for a portion of their revenue.

Workers at the hotel installed hand sanitizer dispensers strategically positioned throughout the hotel. Literal guide-lines to help maintain physical distance in common areas. Also, furniture arrangements in common areas have been changed to respect appropriate physical distancing and limit capacity. Lastly, management updated housekeeping procedures for both in-house and newly arriving guests

According to Jeff Brainard, Vice president of sales and marketing for Southern Management Corp., the Hotel at the University of Maryland hopes to position itself as a hospitality option for travelers who may need to come to Washington D.C., but not want to be in the city itself.

“With the easing of restrictions, not only in Maryland but in the surrounding states, we want to have a place available as travel starts to return,” said Brainard in an interview, “especially as it starts to return in College Park, with people visiting the area, for people that may not be comfortable in a downtown setting, but want a more suburban setting where you can be close to D.C., but not necessarily in a busy city.”

Southern Management Corp. operates four hotel properties, two of them – the Cambria Hotel College Park and the Hotel at the University of Maryland – are in College Park. In fact, the re-opening of the Hotel at the University of Maryland means both of its Baltimore Avenue properties will be operating. The Cambria Hotel has been hosting members of the Maryland Army National Guard’s 115th Military Police Battalion during its emergency activation to assist with local coronavirus response efforts. It’s other poperties, The Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover, and the Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Conference Center in Macungie, Pennsylvania, will also remain closed through at least June 1, Brainard said.

Before the pandemic Hotel at University of Maryland had about 150 associates. Brainard said almost all of those employees have been furloughed since mid-March. The property has not made permanent layoffs, Brainard said, and has tried to bring back employees to help out with maintenance in the shuttered hotel as the need arose.

Brainard said the company has not applied for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loans, which provides to businesses to maintain payroll. The loans may be forgiven, mostly, if recipients avoid layoffs. But the final rules for those loans and the forgiveness requirements were just released this past Monday.

“It’s still being studied,” said Brainard. “You didn’t know if you were going to have that forgiven or not, and putting extra debt onto properties that are closed, while not knowing what your future is going to be isn’t necessarily a business decision that you want to make.”

Southern Management has had “significant” impacts on its hotel business since the pandemic began, Brainard said.

“We are not where we want to be for June,” said Brainard. “I think we have a couple hundred room-nights on the books in total, where by this time you would typically want to have a couple thousand on the books.”

Editor’s note: Route 1 Reporter is – normally – a subscriber-supported local news website. Due to the state of emergency, articles about the coronavirus pandemic will be available for free. If you like the reporting, please support Route 1 Reporter on Patreon.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.