Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read JUNE 2021 — Atlanta is expecting a July 4 weekend rebound in the decimated hospitality sector after a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry. Despite some issues with labor shortages and international travel restrictions, the city is ready to receive visitors during America’s most popular holiday, with local leaders hoping it’s just the start.
With the busiest airport in the world, popular attractions and venues capable of hosting large events, Atlanta has always been a well-known destination for visitors looking for pleasure or business. The pandemic limited the city’s potential to attract tourists and forced some businesses to stop their operations partially or permanently. The iconic Hyatt Regency hotel, for example, spent the second half of 2020 with an occupancy that fluctuated around 40%. The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre closed its doors during most of last year due to the health crisis. Other leisure-related businesses, like CinéBistro Brookhaven, could not manage the absence of visitors and closed its operation for good.
William Pate, president and CEO of Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimates that businesses dedicated to conventions and events experienced a contraction in revenue of 65%. Nonetheless, as vaccinations become widely available in the United States and the desire to travel erupts after long confinement, Pate also remains hopeful of a rebound for the industry. According to a study on travel sentiment made by Longwood International, 88% of Americans have plans to travel in the next six months, a trend that represents an opportunity for traditional destinations with the capabilities and experience of receiving a large influx of visitors.
Early this month, a joint effort between Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp and Explore Georgia, the state tourism office within the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), allocated a budget of $2 million for marketing grants and co-op funding as part of a larger effort to help the local tourism industry. The plan is designed to capture the attention of travelers as the state and the country reopens for the summer. “As we head into a summer when we expect to see a tremendous reemergence of domestic tourism and the economic prosperity that travel brings, the funding of these grants recognizes the importance of communicating the diversity of visitor experiences across Georgia that are close to home for so many Americans,” said Mark Jaronski, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism at GDEcD, in a press release.
The efforts to push Atlanta as a destination for travelers is already resulting in positive numbers. Although hotels are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels in the city until 2024, CBRE estimates a 39% increase in revenue per available room this year. Restaurants in the metro have experienced an increase in sales, with a 3.5% gain in 1Q21, according to the Georgia Restaurant Association. Additionally, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is progressively recovering its traffic after receiving $338.5 million in grants through the CARES Act, the largest aid given to any airport in the United States.
The upcoming July 4th celebration will be an opportunity for Atlanta to reclaim its national and international recognition as a world-class tourist destination. After a year of facing extraordinary perils and significant losses, the sector is finally feeling hopeful thanks to an effort made by government and business leaders alike. Even if the city needs some years before reaching pre-pandemic indicators related to tourism, a sense of normalcy, combined with new business opportunities, is enough reason to feel hopeful.
For more information, visit: https://gov.georgia.gov/