By: Max Crampton- Thomas
2 min read April 2020 — As the full wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic strikes the country, tourism is among the worst-hit sectors. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO William Pate calls the impact “unprecedented” and points to an expected 95% drop in business in May. Pate outlines the actions the bureau is taking to help businesses in the sector and also provides his outlook for the second half of the year.
In comparison to where the numbers were last year, what have you seen in terms of drop off from the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and hospitality community in the region?
The hospitality industry is on the front line of those affected financially, and the impact is unprecedented. We experienced a 70% reduction in business in March and expect a 95% reduction in April and a 95% reduction in May. Smith Travel Research estimates hotel occupancy in the city of Atlanta for March was 33 percent, compared to 81 percent in March 2019 and March 2018. Destinations across the country are seeing similar downtrends or worse. Our priority is now on recovery. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau is laser-focused on making sure our city’s hospitality industry comes back strong so we are able to spread the economic benefit throughout the city as quickly as possible.
How is your organization working to assist the tourism sector in mitigating the challenges and impact felt from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Many of our 850 members are facing extreme financial challenges. We have aggregated online resources on Atlanta.net designed to help them along with their employees. These include fundraising efforts on behalf of employees in our industry as well as restaurants that are providing pickup and delivery services. For locals and visitors, we list attractions offering virtual experiences as well as updates on event cancellations and venue closures.
How quickly do you believe the tourism and hospitality industry in Atlanta will be able to recover from this pandemic?
Atlanta has a strong convention calendar in the second half of this year, and our sales team is actively working with the staff at Georgia World Congress Center to optimize space and bring additional meetings to the city. It is difficult to forecast how quickly travel will rebound. This is an unprecedented situation, and the length of this event and the rate at which people will travel again and attend conventions remains to be seen. Atlanta is a very attractive destination for travelers though, and we continue to see substantial activity in booking meetings and conventions over the next five years.
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