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'I'm optimistic': Why experts say San Antonio's tourism industry bring signs of hope

While hotel room occupancy is overall down comparing 2021 to 2019, there are signs of hope with more conventions and events slated for this year.

SAN ANTONIO — There’s no question San Antonio’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. But two years later, hospitality experts are seeing gradual improvements as more people fill up hotel rooms and restaurants.

Data provided by Visit San Antonio and Smith Travel Research reveals hotel room occupancy city-wide in December 2021 was 57.4 percent compared to 57.6 percent in December 2019.

Hotel occupancy for last December surpassed other cities such as Dallas, Charlotte and Denver.

Occupancy for the entire year of 2021 did remain down 10.1 percent from 2019.

“Occupancies in 2021 were in the mid 50 percent range. That’s down from 75 percent which would be normal,” said Rusty Wallace, area managing director of Omni Hotels including Omni La Mansion Del Rio.

Wallace has his eye on the future as Fiesta-related events, the San Antonio rodeo and conventions bring people into the Alamo City.

“Bookings for spring break look very strong right now. We’ve got the NCAA regional tournament coming up and we’ve got some real nice conventions on the calendar for the rest of the year so I’m optimistic that once we get past omicron things are going to pick up,” Wallace said.

Marco Barros, who works as a hospitality consultant for several restaurants along the Riverwalk, points to the ongoing barrier faced by the tourism industry.

“Everyone has openings. There’s help wanted signs almost everywhere I go, and I think the staff shortage is the number one challenge that we have,” Barros said.

He gives full credit to Visit San Antonio for their efforts in hosting conventions, although the pandemic prompted events to be postponed or canceled.

Despite the ongoing challenges, he believes the Alamo City is on a positive path of recovery.

“You’re going to the reopening of the Crockett Hotel next month. Next month in February, we have a city-wide convention with all the Texas music educators and that really fills the whole downtown and it has a huge impact on the owners of Riverwalk restaurants. I think we’re slowly coming back to a level of confidence in the travel industry.”


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