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Alamo City feeling heat from vacant rooms and vanished revenue

San Antonio's historic Crockett Hotel.
San Antonio's historic Crockett Hotel. (San Antonio Business Journal)

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the San Antonio Business Journal and KSAT.

Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. completed its multimillion-dollar renovation of the more than 1,000-room Marriott Rivercenter hotel in March — just as the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.

Five months later, ownership — which did not close the hotel during construction or because of the pandemic — is still waiting to show off its refurbished rooms.

“There are some rooms in this hotel that no one has slept in yet,” said Greg Blum, director of marketing for Marriott’s Rivercenter and Riverwalk hotels.

The average occupancy rate among area hotels during the second quarter was less than 32%, down from more than 67% during second quarter 2019, according to data from local consulting company Source Strategies Inc. San Antonio hotels generated about $374 million in revenue in second quarter 2019 and only $93 million during the same period this year.

“Early on, we were shaken, but thinking this wasn’t going to last as long as it has,” San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association Chairwoman Tamara Benavides said.

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Visit San Antonio’s strategy to convince convention and meeting planners to postpone rather than cancel Alamo City bookings could pay dividends down the road. The city will get some help, courtesy of the organization, which plans to stage its annual global marketing event, IPW, in San Antonio in 2023.

That event includes the biggest international buyers in the world, Dow said, making it an important meeting for San Antonio.

“From a positioning standpoint,” he said, “it’s going to be one of the really big comeback opportunities.”

In the interim, local hotel operators have reduced rates to generate business. The average daily rate for metro San Antonio was more than $120 in second quarter 2019. It was less than $74 during the same period this year.

It is expected that it will take about six to eight years for hotel rates to get back to the levels they were at before the pandemic, Nivin said, adding that it’s projected that room demand will end the year down 40% compared to December 2019.

Read more on this story at the San Antonio Business Journal.