Across the nation, COVID-19 has impacted the hospitality and tourism industry, including here in Roswell. In April and May, the industry took a major hit as many hotels, restaurants, venues and attractions were required to close or limit capacity to comply with public health guidance. Now, as businesses have reopened, implemented physical-distancing and safety standards, and adapted to the current business environment, the industry is slowly improving.
Looking toward recovery, our executive director Steve Stroud sat down with Ted Basco, Group Sales Manager at Visit Roswell, to discuss our city’s hospitality and tourism industry. In this Q&A, Steve and Ted discuss the current state of the industry, how the city’s business-class hotels are adapting, what recovery looks like and more.
Steve: How has Roswell’s hospitality and tourism industry been impacted, and what market trends are you seeing?
Ted: It’s no surprise that Roswell’s hospitality industry, along with most of the nation, is feeling the effects of COVID-19. Hotels, restaurants, venues, attractions – they have all taken some form of a hit. While some businesses were able to stay open, others were not as fortunate. Although April and May were rough months in the industry, those that were able to remain open fought and shifted to new business models.
As we approach the last quarter of 2020, the industry is slowly rising. Hotel occupancies are slowly increasing, restaurants have found different or new ways to operate, and venues and attractions are successfully implementing and adapting to COVID-19 safety standards.
Steve: What impact has COVID-19 had on our city’s hotels?
Ted: The Roswell profile of hotels is unique. We have two true full-service hotels—the Doubletree and Holiday Inn. The rest of our profile is either limited-service or extended-stay hotels. Therefore, you cannot make a fair comparison to the hotels in our surrounding communities.
Our hotels have seen a drastic drop in corporate business travel, which primarily fills our hotels Monday through Wednesday, Thursday and even Friday. Mansell Overlook would typically provide a stable amount of midweek occupied rooms in our City. Now that many employees are working remotely and corporations have halted travel, there is less of a demand.
Additionally, our hotels are not getting the same social group business that they normally would due to the drop in wedding business around town.
Steve: Two new hotels, Springhill Suites and Home2Suites, have opened in Roswell since the start of the pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about these hotels and how this is a win for our community?
Ted: In the past, many corporate travelers have traditionally booked their stay at hotels in Alpharetta. With these two new hotels, we keep our business in Roswell. Both hotels are all-suite, upscale branded products—Marriott and Hilton. They both provide a high-standard of exceptional service, which lends to the high-level of businesses that now surround our community.
Steve: Another business-class hotel, Element by Westin, recently added 13 rooms to its development plan, which will give the 6-story hotel a total of 103 rooms. Located off of Westside Parkway, the project is slated to break ground in 2021. What will this hotel bring to the area?
Ted: In our current world, people are very health conscious, and Element by Westin will provide yet another unique and upscale product to the mix – where guests will be able to stay active and maintain their daily fitness routines while on the road. Element focuses both on the short-term and long-term guest. You will be able to enjoy your stay at Element if you are a guest at a wedding that is taking place in Roswell, a business traveler conducting business in Roswell for a week, or even a family that needs a place to live temporarily while contractors are renovating your home.
Steve: With corporate business travel down, how have our business-class hotels pivoted during this time?
Ted: To replace the week-day business traveler that they are not capturing right now, our hotels are developing new and unique packages to replace that business, all while helping others in the community benefit from their successes.
Home2 Suites joined forces with the Computer Museum of America by creating a “Back to the Future” stay-and-play package. You can now book this package at the Roswell Home2 Suites which includes complimentary breakfast, two general admission tickets to CMoA and round-trip transportation to and from the museum. Additionally, Springhill Suites is working on a similar package with the Chattahoochee Nature Center, and some of our hotels are supporting COVID-19 relief efforts by providing a discounted rate for The Giving Kitchen for displaced service workers.
We at Visit Roswell have launched our “Itineraries Initiative,” where we have listed out suggested samplings of things-to-do: family friendly, foodie driven, girlfriend getaway, outdoor enthusiast, etc. Eight of our hotels are providing discounted rates, and you can directly book from our website: visitroswellga.com.
Steve: Based on current trends, when do you estimate that the hotel industry will begin to rebound? Also, when do you estimate that this industry will be back to pre-COVID levels?
Ted: Tough question … unknown. However, we are currently seeing month-over-month growth in occupancies at our hotels. Although it is slow growth, and nowhere close to being at the pre-COVID-19 production levels, it perhaps is a positive sign.
The US Travel Association recently reported that it will likely take 2 years for a return to normal.
Steve: The wedding industry is a large part of Roswell’s economy. What are the current trends in this industry?
Ted: Weddings are still happening. However, your traditional 200-person wedding has now been cut down to 50 (or less). Otherwise, many weddings are postponing.
Naylor Hall, in particular, has shifted to new business strategies, with “Drive-Thru I-Do’s”, micro-weddings and celebration-of-life events.
Steve: Roswell is a “Camera Ready” city that books dozens of video shoots per year, and although the film industry has been impacted by the pandemic, what has that looked like in Roswell?
Ted: The film production industry was set back by not being able to work inside sound stages. However, that did not stop the industry from being active.
Since the COVID-19 shutdown, Visit Roswell alone has worked on over 3 dozen industry leads. The majority of leads were for outdoor filming of commercials, documentaries and reality-TV. Roswell recently landed 2 commercials, a public service announcement video and scenes for a reality TV show.
Steve: Visit Roswell and our organization, recently collaborated with the City of Roswell on the “Come Back Safely Pledge” to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. How does this pledge help aid in the recovery of the hospitality and tourism industry?
Ted: We support tourism for the City of Roswell, all while supporting our local business owners, employees, residents and visitors alike. This pledge is a commitment to those stepping foot in our City that sends a message that “it is okay to visit Roswell” and that we as a broad community are doing our part in making sure that it is safe to be in Roswell. This pledge allows us to unify as a City, to be on the same page and promote a strong level of care
Steve: And last, but not least … what are some fun and safe ways our residents and visitors can explore Roswell this season?
Ted: Enjoy the outdoors by visiting our award-winning parks or nature trails. Checkout our “Itineraries initiative”—Family Friendly, Foodie Enthusiast, Girlfriend Getaway, Iconic Roswell, Outdoor Enthusiast or Romantic Getaway. Support our businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 by shopping and eating locally, especially at businesses that have taken the #ComeBackSafelyPledge.