Hurricane Harvey's boon to Houston-area hotel managers is ending as displaced residents find more permanent shelter seven months after the storm.
Houston's average hotel occupancy rose to 86 percent in the weeks following the hurricane as federal aid helped fill up often-vacant rooms, the Houston Chronicle reported. An industry report released this week found that local hotels are returning to normal business as evacuees increasingly move back home or find other housing.
Alameda Inn in south Houston had all of its 32 rooms packed with displaced residents in the months after the storm tore through the area. The motel now has only three remaining rooms occupied by impacted families.
"We had a couple of months of good business, but it's slowed down," said Vinod Bhakta, the motel's general manager. "People left one by one. If they find a different place, people move."
Almost 56,000 Texas residents took advantage of the joint federal and state program for displaced families to temporarily stay in approved hotels and motels after Harvey, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
About 11,300 families used the transitional shelter assistance program in the storm's immediate aftermath. Nearly 2,700 families still use the program as of this week.
The government per diem rate started at $135 for August and September, but later dropped to $121.
"We saw double-digit growth in demand and revenue for several months, but that's starting to slow down," said Hannah Smith, a consultant with industry research firm STR. From September through January, Houston hotels and motels saw double-digit growth each month in room nights sold, occupancy rates and revenue per available room, according to the firm's findings.
The drop-off typically happens when FEMA slows or stops assistance, Smith said.
FEMA will offer the transitional aid to Harvey evacuees until April 23.