Though some conventions have returned to downtown Atlanta, many organizers are downscaling their events. “Hotel demand is starting to come back,” said Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau chief financial officer Gregory Pierce, but convention business in 2022 is expected to be about 50-70% of 2019 levels.
Cookie Smoak believes a trend toward smaller conventions could benefit the airport area and its smaller convention center.
“We’re definitely going to recover faster than the downtown corridor, particularly because of our size,” said Smoak, president of the Atlanta Airport District Convention & Visitors Bureau.
But there are still challenges in attracting business travelers. Hotel occupancy for metro Atlanta, year-to-date, is about 60%, up from 47.7% last year, according to ACVB. In 2019, it was nearly 70%.
Still, the Gateway Center plans to be ready when travel returns to normal. More hotels are still envisioned for the Gateway Center campus, though some have been delayed. An Aloft and Residence Inn dual-branded hotel is expected to begin construction next July behind the BMW training facility there, according to College Park economic development director Artie Jones. But a Sheraton hotel planned pre-COVID for the campus is on hold, Smoak said.
Closer to the airport, a long-planned Hilton that was to be built next to Hartsfield-Jackson’s domestic terminal continues to be delayed as developers scale back their plans for the site.