How San Antonio’s thriving tourism industry has been kneecapped by coronavirus pandemic

Visit San Antonio estimates city will lose $57 million since pandemic forced closures, restrictions

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated several industries across San Antonio. One of the hardest hit is the city’s travel and tourism industry.

SAN ANTONIO – The coronavirus pandemic has devastated several industries across San Antonio. One of the hardest hit is the city’s travel and tourism industry.

From a nearly empty River Walk to empty hotel rooms and convention center, the industry is expected to suffer millions in losses.

Richard Oliver, director of partner and community relations at Visit San Antonio, tells KSAT that as of Monday, 16 city-wide conferences had been canceled and three postponed or rescheduled.

That has led to a projected overall economic loss of at least $57 million through the 2020 fiscal year, which ends September 30.

The cancellation of the 2020 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America alone led to an economic loss of $8.7 million, Oliver said.

The city also lost significant funds when the UIL canceled the Boy’s State Basketball Tournament at the Alamodome, and the International Car Wash Show, which was expected to bring in thousands of attendees from around the world, canceled as well.

San Antonio hotels have felt the ripple effect.

Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez said Thursday during a city council meeting that many hotels have closed amid reports of occupancy rates under 10 percent.

Oliver said Visit San Antonio estimates the hotel industry has lost 97,000 room stays and a projected 87,400 conference attendees.

At Thursday’s meeting, the council presented a graphic that showed the preliminary impact to the city’s hotel occupancy tax would be anywhere from $29 to $44 million.

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Bear in mind, these numbers are only the city-wide meetings planned for the convention center and local hotels that are contracted with Visit San Antonio.

Popular business and tourist destinations such as the JW Marriott, Westin and Grand Hyatt have been greatly impacted, and lost out on city-wide conventions.

These figures also do not take into account any possible tourism and travel job losses due to the pandemic.

San Antonio’s travel and tourism industry supports more than 140,188 jobs.

It contributes to more than $213 million in taxes and fees to the city, and more than $419 million to all local governments combined.

The numbers are bleak, but there is hope that by the summer, the city’s thriving travel industry will recover.

“While we don’t have a crystal ball as to when we’ll see a light at the end of this tunnel, Visit San Antonio continues to be as proactive as possible every day to be in the best position when it does occur,” said Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit San Antonio.

“As we look forward, we’re seeing some positive signs. For instance, after a tumultuous period, our convention market has remained stable in July. I don’t think there is any doubt that when San Antonio and the rest of the country arrive at a time of economic recovery, the tourism and hospitality industry will be a major driver in making it happen.”


About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.