The hotel industry won’t get back to its 2019 occupancy and revenue numbers until the late 2022 or even 2023, a Sandy Springs hotel director told the city’s Hospitality and Tourism Board during its Sept. 24 meeting.

As hotel revenues go down, so too does the revenue for Visit Sandy Springs, which gets its funding from hotel and motel taxes. Executive Director Jennifer Cruce told her governing board, the Hospitality and Tourism Board of Directors, that her staff continues to revise its revenue estimates. All marketing and social media has been brought in-house. She earmarked $200,000 that could be cut from the budget. And she was scheduled to discuss budget adjustments with Mayor Rusty Paul, chair of the board.

The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel, left, in the Concourse Center as seen in 2017. (File)

In 2019, Visit Sandy Springs had revenue of $1.8 million. Initially for 2020, it budgeted for $1.7 million in revenues, but ultimately collected $1.2 million. The city receives a share of the tax revenue also.

For fiscal year 2021, which started in July and runs through June 2021, Cruce said the agency budgeted $820,000 early in the pandemic based on forecasted occupancy rate and room rates. But she doesn’t anticipate receiving that much revenue, as those projections were from when public health officials said the pandemic would drop off with a possible spike in November.

The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North adjusted its budget to 40% to 45% of 2019’s numbers, said John Visconti, director of marketing for the hotel and a board member.

Businesses he has contacted want to get back to traveling, he said, but no travel is planned until next year.

“I’m concerned but I’m optimistic about the second half of next year,” Visconti said.

A lot of groups still plan travel in the second half of next year, he said. He expects corporate travel to resume by then.

As dismal as it sounds, Visconti said Sandy Springs is in a good situation with hotels running at 40% to 45%occupancy.

“I will tell you we have hotels in our company that are running 10% occupancy,” he said.

Hotels in the city and across the country have adjusted rates. But that affects funding and revenue streams, he said.

The Westin has booked some small weddings with 80 to 100 people instead of the 300-person weddings it had pre-pandemic. 

The Perimeter area may lose some hotels, but most of those lost in metro Atlanta will be downtown. Those hotels rely on the convention business.

“The convention business takes a lot longer to come back because you have thousands of people in one place,” Visconti said.

With the Perimeter area depending on corporate customers in much smaller groups, it’s recovery can be quicker.

But traveling will be different, he said. Corporations will try to cut trips down to one or two nights at most. If a traveler has a lunch appointment, they’ll be expected to head back home that same afternoon.

“I truly believe we will get back to the corporate market, the group market, the social market,” Visconti said. “People want to socialize, people want to connect. People want to share ideas.”

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.