Hospitality industry welcomes tourists back to San Antonio with open arms

‘You know what it looks like out there? Christmas,’ says Richard Oliver, director of partner and community relations for Visit San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been a rough year for the third-largest industry in San Antonio, but during spring break 2021, the tourist crowds started to make a comeback, said Richard Oliver, director of partner and community relations for Visit San Antonio.

“You know what it looks like out there? Christmas. That sort of looks like you’re talking about the tourism hospitality industry. This is a happy time,” he said.

The recent crowds are making hotels and other businesses bullish about the busy summer season ahead.

“Spring break this year was very positive, and it was a lot of fun. And people enjoyed themselves in San Antonio. There was a lot of energy, and the spotlight was back on the city,” Oliver said. “And so I think the one thing that’s coming out of that -- all of our family attractions, all the amusement parks, the restaurants, the hotels, they came out saying, ‘You know what? Maybe summer is going to be OK.’”

From March 2020 to March 2021, 288 meetings in the Convention Center were canceled, meaning more than 729,000 attendants and 717,000 room nights were lost, resulting in $433.7 million in lost economic impact.

Hotel occupancy during spring 2020 went from an average of 70% occupancy to below 20%. However, it slowly climbed up a little more but still lower than usual for the remainder of the year.

Pre-pandemic in 2019, 41 million leisure visitors came to San Antonio, making it the state’s largest leisure destination. The number of visitors for 2020 is not yet available.

Oliver said the exciting thing about the return of the crowds is the return of jobs in the hospitality industry. Pre-pandemic, a Trinity University study showed that 1 out of every 7 employed San Antonians worked in the hospitality industry, a total of more than 140,000 workers.

“The establishments, the restaurants, the hotels, the attractions, the family, the family attractions -- all of those different things had to staff up, and they had to staff up quickly,” Oliver said. “So that’s one thing -- the manpower part of things is trying to get everybody back to work, finding your staff. It’s problematic right now.”

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