Hotels at eight Air Force bases across the country are closing down as military-run lodging continues to struggle to bring in customers after a 2018 policy stripped the inns of taxpayer funding.
The hotels set to close are located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California; Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts; Tinker Air Force Base and Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma; Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida; and Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania.
The Wingo Inn at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee was due to be closed and will no longer be run by the service, but base leadership has decided to keep the hotel open while running operations with the installation’s Outdoor Recreation Staff, a base spokesman told Military.com.
"In order to maintain quality and meet standards, we must continue to evaluate lodging facilities at all installations," Janae Sergio, Air Force Lodging chief, said in a Wednesday press release. "Certain lodging operations will be reduced in size or closed to ensure the [Air Force] can maintain its lodging portfolio and reinvest to meet current and future program needs."
Military bases have offered hotel-style lodging for service members and retirees, often providing more affordable rates than civilian options outside the installation fences, for decades. But in 2018, a Pentagon policy cut taxpayer funding for the inns provided by the service branches and ordered them to be solely operated through nonappropriated funds, meaning operation costs are covered only by the nightly room rates.
The inns being closed have had historically low occupancy during non-COVID years, aging room inventories with high repair costs, or are small operations with fewer than 85 rooms, Sergio said in the press release.
The Air Force Lodging inventory has 977 buildings, or 24,546 rooms, across 87 military installations. The service ultimately plans to scale it down to 921 buildings, or 23,810 rooms, across a total of 78 installations.
Timelines for when the eight lodges will close will "vary based on installation circumstances," according to a press release. News of the closures comes after it was announced in April that the Air Force Inns at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., would be closing.
The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have not established plans to privatize their on-base lodging options.
In 2009, the Army became the first to privatize "with the goal of addressing the poor condition of facilities more quickly than could be achieved under continued Army operation," a 2021 U.S. Government Accountability Office report detailed.
Real estate group Lendlease took over as the manager and owner of the Army's hotels, and IHG Hotels and Resorts operates them.
On-base hotels aren't the only long-standing services shuttering across the country for service members and veterans.
Last month, Military.com reported that United Service Organization facilities across the country have been suddenly closing their doors.
USOs are located at military installations and airports to support service members and their families while they travel on assignments around the world, including unstaffed locations in war zones too dangerous for USO employees.
Similar to the military hotels, the USOs have seen decreasing foot traffic at some of their locations over the years.
"We have determined several of our locations have very low traffic and have decided to redeploy those resources elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world to better serve our military," Daniel Drummond, director of communications and social media for the USO, told Fort Lee's public affairs in an email last month.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to remove Wingo Inn at Arnold Air Force Base from the list of hotels to close. After publication, a base spokesperson contacted Military.com to say that, while the Air Force had decided to no longer staff the hotel, base leadership had decided to keep it open using local base resources.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.