Stacy Brown: Hospitality industry rocked by pandemic, but making a comeback

Stacey Tinsley | BIZ. Magazine

Bossier chamber of Commerce President/CEO Lisa Johnson spoke with Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau President Stacy Brown during Monday’s “Chamber Chat” to discuss our local hospitality industry and how it is going to rebound. 

The ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has reverberated through every corner of the globe, causing loss of lives and jobs as well as a slump in general economic activities. The domino effect of the virus has brought untold pain and hardships to many individuals and organizations from all corners of the world.

“One of the things about all of this happening during our peak season, is that it has had a tremendous negative impact on the hospitality industry. Our economy locally is very tight in hospitality and tourism. Caddo and Bossier Parishes generate each year about $97 million dollars in taxes that are paid by our visitors,” Brown said.

“The hospitality industry really is a key to getting things going back in our communities as well as around the whole nation and the world,” she added”

Undeniably, hotels are one of the hardest-hit industries by COVID-19. As a result of massive cancellations of flights, tours, events, hotel reservations and a resultant decline in inbound travel, hotel occupancy rates and average room rates have dropped sharply causing unprecedented declines in profit margins. 

“How much has this impacted us? As of a couple of weeks ago we looked at how many conferences, meetings, sporting events have been canceled or postponed because of the pandemic. And it’s about 100 that have postponed. Just those [are] over $33 million dollars in economic impact. That’s not including the typical visitor that comes here to goes to the casino, eats at a restaurant, goes shopping, goes to the theater. It has definitely had a huge impact on our economy,” said Brown.

Airlines, tour operators, travel agents, attraction sites, car hire, restaurants and hotels have all been adversely impacted. All businesses and service providers along the tourism value chain, including the farmer who supplies vegetables to a restaurant, and a taxi driver who shuttles tourists from the airport to hotels, are all affected.

Since Governor John Bel Edwards moved Louisiana in Phase 1 last month, Brown says the negative economic impact has been improving.

“Since we have been gradually opening up every week we have seen things getting a little bit better,” Brown said. “One of the indicators we look at is through Expedia. With Expedia we have been able to look at our future booking compared to how they were booking last year. Obviously May and June look really down compared to what they looked like this time last year. But we are seeing July is picking up pretty good. August is looking better. September and October are actually looking better then what they were last year. So as long as things continue to progress nicely I think we will see some good increases coming back to our community. Definitely having the ability to open up to 50% at the casinos and other areas is a huge positive.”

A new campaign called “Press Play” is planned to attract visitors to come to the Shreveport/Bossier area.

“Press Play will let people know that it’s time to come back to Shreveport/Bossier and now is the great time to do that. One of the avenues we will be using is Expedia, it’s a leader in the hotel search and bookings,” said Brown.