Ready for a Staycation?
Like many industries throughout the world, the hospitality sector has been immensely hurt, reaching unemployment numbers as high as 51% nationally (US Travel Association). You read that correctly: 51%. When most people hear the word hospitality, they immediately think hotels and restaurants. The hospitality industry spans lengths far greater than those, however. Throughout the spring and into the summer, hospitality-focused businesses saw drastic reductions, not only in sales and employees, but also in how they were able to operate. Meetings and conventions halted, concerts cancelled indefinitely, weddings postponed, festivals scratched, fundraising events completely rethought, attractions closed, and celebrations nixed. This has been a devastating blow to industry professionals whose livelihoods are based on being around people—many times in group settings. While the travel industry is slowly showing positive, upward trends, there lies ahead a substantial amount of work for local convention and visitors bureaus and community stakeholders. A large volume of our planned successes will depend on you as the local resident and the pride you have for your community.
Visit Roswell, carrying the responsibility of driving tourism spending and group business into the destination, focuses on three travel segments: Leisure, group and business transient.
First, with many corporations having opted to have employees work from home (many through early to mid-2021), we’ve seen large reductions in business transient business: i.e., business professionals traveling to cities for daytrips or multiple nights to conduct individual meetings and appointments. This has impacted our hotels and the businesses in which those individuals spend their money when in town for work.
Second, gathering restrictions and limitations on group size has practically stopped wedding business. Roswell, being a destination known for its special events venues (with many of our venues carrying out three weddings a weekend), has seen that business come to an abrupt stop since early spring. In some cases our venues are working with brides on their third postponements. Even the weddings that are moving forward have been completely reshaped—an example: A wedding guest count decreased from 250 guests to 30. The change in those numbers alone are enough to affect the local economy, as that number represents 220 fewer guests coming into town to experience the destination.
Third, the segment we predicted to bounce back the quickest and strongest has done just that. The leisure segment has seen travelers returning to the community to dine in the restaurants, enjoy the breweries, take in our art and experience the plentiful recreational opportunities for which Roswell is known. We are certainly happy to see that business coming back, but we need your support in helping us grow the others.
This is a call to action, and you are pivotal to our success. We need for you to think about your community first, with another focus on communities within the hyper-local area. You’ll soon see the word staycation once again among the articles, blogs and posts you read. With regard to consumer confidence, travelers are choosing to stay closer to home, taking a more in-depth look at the leisure side of the community in which they reside. This presents an incredible opportunity for you to not only learn more about your own area, but to support those local businesses who need it the most. If friends and family members are visiting from out of town, encourage them to stay in a local hotel. Have a niece that’s recently engaged? Encourage her to seek out local venues and discuss creative options for the ceremony and reception. Have work colleagues coming into town? Grab coffee, lunch or dinner at a local dining establishment. Planning a holiday celebration? Seek out local retailers or establishments that have meeting space. Give Roswell partners the opportunity to earn your business. Even better, contact Visit Roswell and allow our team to do the legwork for you, completely complimentary.
It’s tough to predict how exactly the events of COVID-19 will transform the travel industry, although we know it’s happening. As each day unfolds, we learn new information, see a variety of changes, and experience business models that have shifted. What we do know is that travel and hospitality will return to its normal levels. That return begins locally, with you.
Andy Williams, CMP, TMP
Executive Director at Visit Roswell