Atlanta to spend more on tourism, seeking business travelers

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, Atlanta hotels saw their occupancy rates plunge to 36% for the year

Atlanta tourism officials said Friday that they expect an increase in visitors later in 2022 after the the omicron variant of COVID-19 slowed the city’s tourism recovery during late 2021.

WABE-FM reports that the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau announced plans Friday to increase marketing efforts after spending was reduced at the start of the pandemic.

Hotel occupancy rates in Atlanta rose more than 10 percentage points from 2020 to 2021, thanks largely to leisure travel.

A general view of the skyline is seen prior to the Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO William Pate said he expects a stronger rebound in business and group travel this year, if the pandemic abates.

“There’s a pent-up demand for travel,” Pate said. “Absolutely no doubt about it. You see it in all of the data.”

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, Atlanta hotels saw their occupancy rates plunge to 36% for the year. A rebound last year brought occupancy up to 48%. But that still lags far behind 2019′s 74% occupancy rate.

“All of the indicators show that the business is going to be very strong this year,” Pate said. ”It’s not going to be as strong as 2019, it’s going to take us another year, probably to make a complete recovery.”

While the vast majority of Atlanta’s major conventions remained scheduled this year, a conference on laboratory science canceled its March in-person sessions, citing uncertainty over the coronavirus.

“When we have a strong convention year and a strong year of attendance, financially, it really helps not only the hotels and restaurants but all the small businesses that support our industry as well,” Pate said. “And of course they’ve really suffered here the last two years.”

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