- September 4, 2021
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The hospitality industry experts who warned it would take years for San Antonio and other convention destinations to fully recover from the economic damage inflicted by the pandemic are proving wise prophesiers.
They are getting some help, however, from a variant of the Covid-19 virus that’s infecting even the vaccinated and threatening to ground more business travel.
A new report based on a national survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association hangs a dark cloud over any hopes for a significant improvement in such travel anytime soon. That could further delay the rebuilding of San Antonio’s lucrative convention and group meeting business.
Among the more alarming findings: 67% of the respondents plan to take fewer business trips amid rising concerns about the virus, while 52% said they would likely cancel existing travel plans without rescheduling.
It’s an unsettling twist for San Antonio hotel operators who were hopeful months ago that they had survived the worst of the pandemic.
“While leisure travel and pent-up demand from last year has helped us regain much needed footing this summer, convention and meetings represent an important part of hotel business and we have always known that recovery in that sector would take longer to rebuild,” said Michelle Madson, president and CEO of the San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association.
Some industry experts had anticipated months ago that a full recovery wouldn’t occur before 2024. A drop in consumer confidence could further delay that rebuild.
A separate survey by Deloitte indicates that 2021 will prove far less productive than many in the hospitality industry had hoped. The results point to a 70% drop in corporate travel through the end of this year compared to 2019. That decline is projected to cost the U.S. hotel industry as much as $59 billion.
“Hotels were already on pace to lose more business travel revenue this year than we did in 2020. And now rising Covid-19 cases threaten to further reduce the main source of revenue for our industry,” AHLA CEO Chip Rogers said.
Larger San Antonio hotels, including downtown properties more dependent on convention and group travel, could be especially vulnerable to the pullback.
Veteran hotel industry leader Bill Brendel, who will succeed Sharon Aguillen as CEO of the San Antonio Visitor Alliance in October, believes there are other pandemic-related factors that are driving down business travel.
“Business has become adept at working remotely,” he said.
Brendel believes there are safe ways to stage in-person group meetings and conventions. But that may require more widespread vaccination of prospective attendees.
Said Madson, “If there is anything we have learned since the start of the pandemic, it is how to be adaptive. We are confident in our ability to address any concerns and create a safe, welcoming environment.”