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Coronavirus Update: San Francisco Hotels Struggling During COVID-19 Shutdown

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Tourism is San Francisco's largest industry, according to the San Francisco Travel Association. But with 70 of the city's 215 hotels temporarily closed under the shelter-in-place order, will not be business as usual when they reopen?

The Handlery Union Square Hotel has survived many crises, including earthquakes, the mortgage industry crash and The Great Recession. But it was the pandemic that forced the family-run business to suspend operations.

"It's been an extremely challenging time, something that I've never seen before," said President and General Manager Jon Handlery. "I've been in the business my entire life."

Handlery's grandfather started the hotel in 1928. In early April, only 5 out of 377 rooms were occupied. And at that point, the hotel had already lost 300 thousand dollars. Handlery temporarily closed the hotel, and furloughed about 90 employees.

When the stay-at-home order is lifted, day-to-day operations at hotels across the city will look very different, including extensive cleaning procedures.

"You're going to see, whether it's a kiosk, or via your phone, people are going to want to check-in that way, as opposed to the exchange at the front desk," said Handlery.

More than half of the Handlery hotel's clientele was international. But with canceled conventions, flight restrictions, and travelers with tighter budgets, it's not betting on an easy or fast recovery.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association says across the country, 8-in 10 hotel rooms are empty.This year is projected to be the worst year on record for hotel occupancy.

"I think there's apprehension right now," said AAA's Vice President of Travel Cyndi Zesk. "I think there are certain people who are fearful. I think there are some people who are anxious to get on the road."

As we come out of stay-at-home orders, AAA expects destinations within of 6-hour drive from home to attract guests.

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