In our July executive summary, I wrote about being perpetually optimistic in the face of the most unique and damaging threat of our time. Understandably, it’s a sentiment that has been tested over the past month – and will be as we move forward.
Yet, as we consider where we are today, reassessing the way we do business and considering what the future landscape will look like when this pandemic is defeated, staying hopeful may be as powerful a strategy as any legislative or budgetary consideration. In recent days, that optimism has provided a backdrop to some important discussions.
In separate meetings during August, both the Visit San Antonio and Tourism Public Improvement District boards held in-person meetings – with some virtual components – at the Stars at Night Ballroom of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The opportunity to meet face to face, while following safety protocols, was a welcome development and a small-scale test of how meetings will likely look in coming weeks and months.
In both gatherings, we were able to establish our goals and priorities as we look ahead at Fiscal Year 2021 after this damaging stretch. We centered our discussions around revitalization and what that will look like. In our Visit San Antonio board meeting, for instance, we used a three-pillared approach to our priorities: Recovery, Sustainability and Flexibility.
The idea, especially in these trying times, is to be tactical, responsible and proactive in utilizing all our resources – including financial – in positioning Visit San Antonio to be an effective leader in aiding the city’s economic recovery. Consider that U.S. Travel reported recently that 40 percent of all remaining unemployment nationally is in the leisure hospitality sector, and San Antonio is no exception.
That financial recovery depends on getting the hospitality sector back to work.
There are encouraging signs: Late in this summer period, we saw an uptick of visitor traffic at some hotels, restaurants and attractions. Anecdotally, some sites reported that a half or more of visitors hailed from out of town. Additionally, we are scheduled to host our first large citywide meeting from Sept. 24-27 when the Women of Joy conference brings nearly 4,000 attendees to the Convention Center.
Sixty conferences that Visit San Antonio has contracted through 2021 are slated for the Convention Center, which has prepared for the arrivals with some of the industry’s most advanced safety protocols.
While we have remained largely dark in our marketing through the summer, thanks to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve gradually begun to roll out initiatives designed to spark travel to the city. One, our "Work from Here" campaign, invites those with flexibility in their employment situations to consider working from San Antonio. Several of our hotel partners have joined in to create packages for those looking for a creative place to work and play.
In September, we’re happy to partner with the U.S. Travel Association on its "Let’s Go There" campaign, designed to inspire Americans to make plans to travel safely and confidently. The initiative will encourage potential travelers to make immediate plans for trips or, if they’re not ready yet, to book their excursions now and travel later.
Our outreach is important, as our hotel partners weathered disappointing numbers during July, historically one of the stronger months for the industry. Consider:
- Our year-over-year hotel numbers for the entire month of July were down. We experienced a 63.8 percent drop in room revenue, part of a 46.6 percent fall in occupancy. We experienced a decrease of 29.8 percent in room rate, and room demand fell 48.4 percent.
- For the year through July, room revenue is down 52.6 percent, occupancy has fallen 38.3 percent, room rate is behind 19.1 percent and room demand is down 41.4 percent.
Many of those hotels stepped up this week to accommodate hundreds of evacuees who flocked to San Antonio to escape Hurricane Laura. Visit San Antonio created a special webpage with information on hotel discounts and other offerings for those coming to the destination from sites impacted by the weather.
Around the community the numbers are looking better when it comes to the coronavirus. For the first time since early June, the positivity rate on COVID-19 testing dropped below 10 percent, edging close to the goal of 5 percent. It showed that residents, for the most part, have taken this pandemic seriously and are employing the needed safety measures for themselves and those around them.
For our part, Visit San Antonio has continued to work to serve the community, whether through giving blood, distributing food for the San Antonio Food Bank and other charitable activities. For instance, earlier this week in a food truck in the Community Bible Church parking lot with Denise Hernandez and our friends at True Flavors Catering, we fed the volunteers with the San Antonio Food Bank who handed out meals to folks with the hospitality industry.
It was a day that left me as optimistic as ever. I invite you to join me in that. If you have any questions or suggestions for next month’s newsletter, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for all that you do and thank you for your continued support. We look forward to better days ahead!
Deep. In The Heart,
Casandra Matej, CDME, CTA
President & CEO
Visit San Antonio