It's been a rough year for Charleston-area hotels.
A large share of the region's guestrooms were temporarily closed for weeks — or in some cases months — because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, occupancy rates dipped as low as 20 percent in April, and even the year's best month, October, posted a 32 percent year-over-year drop.
The number of new guestrooms has also been low, measuring about a third of the total that were added in the same period in 2019.
The year has been more about maintaining existing properties than opening new ones, though the market could claim at least one notable addition: Emeline, a concept that opened in a former DoubleTree near the City Market. Its operators added back dozens of rooms that had been dormant during the makeover. This fall, the hotel became the 13th Charleston lodging to earn a AAA Four Diamond rating.
Several hotels are expected to open in the first half of 2021, including another longstanding downtown lodging being remade under a new brand.
The Ryder is anticipated to open early next year in the former King Charles Inn at Meeting and Hasell streets. After being sold for $43 million last December by its longtime owner, an affiliate of Mount Pleasant-based Charlestowne Hotels, the new management announced it would undergo a major renovation.
A recently launched website describes the new design as having a "modern look" with "laid-back vibes." Amenities include an "earthy, sleek" cafe and a "lush tiki bar and restaurant." The boutique property will still have 91 rooms, the same as when it was operated under the King Charles flag.
Also in the city's tourism center, two more independently run properties are aiming to opening in the New Year.
The Saint Hotel, which previously said it would open its 45 rooms on East Bay Street a few months ago, is now advertising an early 2021 debut. It will be one of three Saint Hotels owned and designed by D. Mark Wyant. The flagship Saint Hotel is in New Orleans, and a second location was opened in Key West.
Not far away, at 61 State St., The Loutrel is being developed off the City Market in a spot that once housed an Asian fusion restaurant. The 50-room lodging is expected to open during the second quarter under the management of Charlestowne Hotels, but further details about the concept were still under wraps as of last week.
The highest room count addition for the region next year will be coming from new accommodations at Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms. April is the projected opening for the 153-key Sweetgrass Inn.
In addition to more guest rooms, the new development will enhance the event and meeting space at the seaside resort. The inn also will include two ballrooms, the Oystercatcher lobby bar and a rooftop event venue with ocean views.
A pre-opening offer is listed for bookings at the Sweetgrass Inn before the end of the year. Groups that make reservations to do business at Wild Dunes in 2021 or the following year will get 3 percent rebates on their accommodations and are eligible for upgrades based on the number of rooms.
The resort, like many other venues in the area, closed temporarily in the spring because of COVID-19. It also was the only local lodging to close down after reopening. An undisclosed number of employees at the resort tested positive for coronavirus, and the property was off limits to guests for a month, starting in mid-July.
A few hundred employees were laid off this year due to the financial strain caused by the health crisis, but managing director Frank Fredericks said earlier this year the plan was to rehire some of them when the new inn opens next year.