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Coronavirus-related cancellations make for slow spring break, prime 'staycation' conditions

Tourists and officials say this is the perfect time to hit the River Walk.

SAN ANTONIO — The cancellation of local conventions has created unseasonably quiet conditions in downtown San Antonio – specifically along the River Walk – a spokeswoman said Friday.

“People tell you to buy when the stock market is low. Well, this is the buying opportunity in the River Walk," said Paula Schechter, marketing and public relations director for the San Antonio River Walk Association. "This is the time to come out."

According to Schechter, conventions that specifically book during spring break have canceled amid COVID-19 concerns. As a result, normally bustling attractions are idle.

“It is leaving hotel occupancy low and restaurants and attractions not busy, but I look at it as a buy-in opportunity," Schechter said. "Now is the time. If you're a local or if you're in driving distance, come on down to San Antonio, come down to the River Walk—there's so much to do.”

Two North Texas families said they planned their vacations months ago and were not deterred by coronavirus. 

“It’s a great time to come because everything seems to be available and not a lot of wait for spring break,” said vacationer Kevin Starnes.

Starnes said he and his colleague, Courtney Christenson, will stay in town beyond vacation to attend a high school basketball tournament.

"You take any precautions like you would before you started having all the coronavirus fears," Christenson said. "You’d wash your hands on any vacation. So keep doing that."

Vanessa Bates flew in from Philadelphia to celebrate her 65th birthday with her daughters. She also said she never considered cancelling her birthday plans.

“No, for what? You only turn 65 once," Bates said.

While local universities announce extended spring breaks and athletic leagues minimize the gathering of crowds, Schechter said she doesn't believe people should avoid the River Walk.

"I do not think people should stay away because of COVID-19," Schechter said. "There are no public cases of it in San Antonio. The cases that we do have here in town were brought here from the cruise ships.

"Those are isolated, they're contained and they are being very well-managed, and I don't think the public should have any concern or fear about that infiltrating the mainstream public. If you're sick, stay home. If you're healthy, go out and enjoy your spring break. It's as simple as that."

Still, the cancellation of conventions have impacted hotel occupancy and restaurant revenue in a significant way.

"One hotel that had 95% occupancy going into spring break has had such severe cancellations through conventions that they're down to 45%," Schechter said, also noting the river boat business has lost several thousands of dollars.

Still, the party will go on. The River Walk will be dyed green Saturday in observance of St. Patrick's Day and a celebration spanning three days will take place along the River Walk.

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