As Atlanta’s Hospitality Industry Recovers, LGBTQ Travelers Have Much to Look Forward To

It has been a long time coming for an industry that has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, but it appears Atlanta’s hospitality industry is set to rebound as we head into summer.

At this point, any activity would be welcome for a city that has lost more than 400 meetings, conventions, and events since the start of the pandemic, costing us more than 1.4 million hotel room nights and reducing revenue by 65 percent. But as more of the population gets vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, Americans are ready to travel again.

The latest Longwoods International Travel Sentiment study shows 88 percent of American travelers have made plans to travel in the next six months, though 57 percent are unlikely to visit places without safety protocols in place. Atlanta is well prepared, as our hotels, meeting venues, convention centers and airport have adopted state-of-the-art cleaning and social distancing protocols to protect our visitors and employees. Economists covering the hospitality industry predict Atlanta will be among the destinations that will have a quick and substantial recovery.

Leisure travel should pick up this summer as pent-up travel demand is unleashed and people emerge from their homes to enjoy a much-needed vacation with the family.

Visitors will find several new experiences when traveling to Atlanta in the coming months. Georgia Aquarium has expanded, with a redesigned entry and a new gallery called “Sharks! Predators of the Deep.” Illuminarium is an experiential attraction and immersive event space opening alongside Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, offering an outdoor café and nighttime bar experience. Wylie Hotel is set to welcome guests after completing a renovation that will showcase the property’s history as one of Atlanta’s first LGBTQ gathering spots, steps away from Ponce City Market.

Demand generators such as concerts and festivals will return as sporting events make plans to return to full attendance. Black Gay Pride, Out On Film and Atlanta Pride are just a few of the cultural events visitors can look forward to this year. Our city is one that truly welcomes all, and these festivals will get people excited to book travel and discover what makes Atlanta the LGBTQ capital of the South with a diverse and thriving community.

Business travel is beginning to pick up as well, even as Atlanta’s convention business begins its comeback. All eyes will be on Midtown when we host the International LGBTQ Travel Association’s (IGLTA) 2021 Global Convention from September 8 through 11. IGLTA’s educational and networking event for LGBTQ tourism professionals connects individuals through scheduled appointments, workshops and receptions. This year brings an enhanced focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives and strategies, creating a unique opportunity to encourage the local community to attend the convention and grow their businesses. Hosting this influential and international audience in Atlanta for the first time allows us to showcase what makes the city a fantastic choice for LGBTQ travelers.

Yes, we will still face some headwinds, even as the recovery begins to take shape. It will take some time to return to the occupancy and spending levels we saw in 2019. But positive signs are emerging. Delta is recalling its pilots and opening middle seats to meet increased travel demand. Hotel occupancy in the city in 2021 has climbed to an average of 40 percent from lows in the 20s last year. Atlanta has been hosting a convention a month since the beginning of the year, and restaurants and attractions are seeing activity pick up as Atlantans get about their springtime activities.

After a long and difficult road, there is finally reason for optimism. Hospitality employees are being called back to work and the small businesses that support our tourism industry are gearing up for a strong rebound as Atlanta prepares to once again take its place as one of the top travel destinations in the country.