As Covid-19 vaccinations increased and more businesses reopened across the country, there was a resurgence in tourist activity in some cities over the Easter weekend, possibly signaling a turning point for the struggling tourism industry.
Chip Rogers, the president and chief operating officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the trade organization for the hospitality industry, said the recovery prior to last weekend was “very regionalized,” with places like Florida and Texas doing well and “cities” that lives from large meetings and congresses like Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, ”which are difficult to recover.
“You are seeing a really good pick up over the weekend dates that have now extended. Traditionally they are Friday to Sunday, now it’s Thursday to Monday, ”he said, referring to the increase in vacation travel. But the lack of Business travel means that bookings on weekdays continue to fall behind. Still, he added, there is cause for “cautious optimism”.
But travelers, even those fully vaccinated, should exercise caution when visiting some states, health experts warn. Case numbers are rising in some popular travel destinations like Florida, where there was a spike as night owls congregated there during the spring break. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend people continue to wear masks, keep social distancing and wash their hands frequently, although some local governments have relaxed or repealed these rules.
Here’s what happened in five major US cities over the weekend and what it could mean for the future of the tourism industry.
New York City
New York City came alive last weekend when many companies and industries that had remained closed since the pandemic began reopened with reduced capacity on April 1, including sports and concert venues, as well as some hotels and sightseeing cruises. These reopenings, along with warmer weather and increasing vaccination rates, appear to have been a boon to the tourism industry, said Chris Heywood, executive vice president of communications for NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism organization.
“It just seems to be a surround sound with a lot of positive news,” Heywood said.
Perhaps the best harbinger of tourist activity in the city, Times Square had the highest number of pedestrians this year at around 150,000 a day, according to the Times Square Alliance, which tracks activity in the area. That is 394 percent more than on the same weekend last year, but still far from the prepandemic figures. On the same weekend in 2019, an average of 364,000 people a day visited the region, an alliance spokesman said.
“We still have a long way to go before Broadway reopens, which will mean a significant increase in tourism for the city and Times Square,” said Tom Harris, acting president of Allianz What Times Square promises after a long year has to offer. “
The warm weather and the comparatively loose Covid-19 regulations have drawn many tourists to Miami and the surrounding area. As a result, Greg Galy, who owns Mila Miami, a Miami Beach restaurant, said many have traveled overseas for extended stays – particularly from places like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago – and said that “made the business possible Picking up customers we didn’t have. “
This influx proved problematic during the spring break when police officers in riot gear used pepperballs to enforce a curfew and disperse night owls who ignored social distancing and masking regulations.
On the weekend of March 28 through April 3, Miami saw “the highest occupancy since the pandemic began, with most hotels reporting over 75 percent occupancy,” said Suzie Sponder, a spokeswoman for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. That is only 6.6 percent less than on the same weekend in 2019.
Ms. Sponder added that the average room rate for the weekend was $ 282.29, up 25 percent from 2019. And Mr. Rogers of the American Hotel & Lodging Association said revenue, which is still declining across the board, is still in decline Noting that Miami’s strong numbers are the exception rather than the rule, the best indicator is.
In the tourism industry, “there are still a lot of people out of work,” he said, “because it’s these big city center hotels that keep most of the people busy, because they have these huge food and drink establishments, it’s just not working. This is where job losses occur most. “
According to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, hotel occupancy in Los Angeles has grown steadily week after week since the beginning of the year.
“Our weekends were over 70 percent busy in the past two weekends,” wrote Jamie Simpson, vice president of global communications on the board, in an email on Monday. This number remained constant on the Easter weekend with an average occupancy rate of 70.4 percent. This is the highest level since March before the pandemic began.
April 8, 2021, 6:17 p.m. ET
Ms. Simpson said the board expects attendance to grow 35 percent in 2021 by 2020, but doesn’t expect to see 2019 levels until 2024.
With the reopening of further companies, the board will begin to be marketed to domestic visitors. The reopening of the city’s museums, as well as the theme parks and live outdoor events. (Disneyland in nearby Anaheim is slated to reopen in late April.)
“It’s been an incredibly tough year for the restaurant industry, but a bubble of hot new restaurants recently opened in LA,” said Ms. Simpson as well as several new hotels.
Las Vegas has seen a number of reopenings including the restart of pool parties at a number of hotels.
“When you’re in Vegas trying to go into a pool, it isn’t easy,” said Derek Stevens, who is the owner and chief operating officer of Circa Resort & Casino. “It’s like trying to book a dinner reservation on New Year’s Eve. You don’t do that the day before. “Seats at the pools of its facilities, which include two other hotels, are booked a month in advance as capacity limits are reduced and social distancing is increased. This shows that there is a demand for vacation travel. Hotels and other venues in the city are limited to 50 percent capacity.
While Easter weekend is historically the second slowest weekend in town, this year was different due to March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournaments. “Everything was packed to the limited capacity level,” he said. “On Saturday all of our venues were occupied at 10 a.m. due to the Final Four. I think that was the case all over Las Vegas. “
Mr Stevens said there have been signs that the Vegas tourism industry has been recovering since the Super Bowl in February and that its three hotels have sold out every weekend since then. “I’ve never seen a booking like we’ve seen in the past three months. This is the strongest booking I’ve ever seen, ”he said.
However, there is still a decline on weekdays due to the lack of conferences or conventions. “What we are seeing is a tremendous pent-up demand for vacation travel, which will be all summer long, but doesn’t necessarily mean business travel will follow suit,” he said.
While New Orleans saw a boom over the spring break, Passover, and Easter, there is still a long way to go “before our $ 10 billion hotel industry is fully recovered,” said Kelly Schulz, senior vice president of communications for New Orleans & Companies.
Hotel occupancy was inconsistent, ranging from 20 to 49 percent between January and March, in some cases up to 90 percent on important weekends in the French Quarter, Ms. Schulz said.
Hotels were a little more than 68 percent occupancy last weekend, according to STR, a global hospitality data and analytics company.
“New Orleans has one of the lowest Covid positivity rates in Louisiana and one of the highest vaccination rates,” Ms. Schulz said. She hopes this, along with “the easing of restrictions, including the return of live music, is another sign of brighter days to come.”
People also seem to be planning future trips. Sixty percent of NewOrleans.com visitors plan to travel in the next three months. Ms. Schulz notes that she is “optimistic for the fourth quarter of 2021 with a congress and festival plan”.
Although summer vacation travel is expected to keep the industry alive, Rogers said business travel will need to resume to get the industry back to 2019 levels.
“While we are optimistic, we are afraid and concerned about what happens after Labor Day when all of these vacation trips are over?” he said. Business travel, he said, “is absolutely necessary if we are to survive.”