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Hoteliers in Atlanta believe their city is well prepared to host what is arguably the most important travel event of the year and are hopeful guests will be captivated by recent positive changes in the city.

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Secondary Categories: Americas, News

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—In the midst of a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, it looked as if travel to the most marquee event of the year could be disrupted by airport security and air traffic control staffing issues at one of the nation’s busiest airports.

But even before a deal was reached to reopen the government, hoteliers in Atlanta were confident this weekend’s Super Bowl will go off without a hitch, providing a much-needed showcase of recent improvements in the market.

The city has not hosted a Super Bowl since 2000, and Cory Chambers, VP and chief revenue officer for Atlanta-based Hospitality Ventures Management Group, said the city is ready to shine.

“Atlanta is a great Super Bowl destination based on the quality and quantity of hotel rooms (near Mercedes-Benz Stadium), the airlift, the quality of the stadium, and the evolution of the urban core,” he said.

Beyond the rate and occupancy spikes that Super Bowl hosting markets typically see, the event will pay dividends for the market going forward, Paul Breslin, managing director for Horwath HTL and executive board member for the Atlanta Hospitality Alliance, believes.

“You can’t replicate that marketing exposure from a branding point of view,” he said. “There are a lot of great things in Atlanta, and a lot of them center around the stadium.”

He said the people who often travel in for the Super Bowl are decision-makers that could play a role in getting more business to Atlanta hotels.

“It’s created a lot of buzz,” he said. “The Super Bowl is like one great social, corporate party. Most of the attendees are affiliated with some corporation.”

Breslin said he’s already seen the beginnings of a transformation of the city, luring in large-scale events, such as medical conventions, that the market now has the upper upscale and luxury supply to support.

“That’s a big shift for us,” he said.

Performance expectations
Cesar Wurm, VP of sales and marketing for Atlanta-based Hotel Equities, said his company is excited about the pickup in business at its properties in the market, which he noted compared favorably to Super Bowl-related performance in other cities.

“It’s coming in pretty much how we expected,” he said. “Initially, we weren’t sure how the (Los Angeles Rams) getting in would play into demand because we weren’t sure what type of following the team had (given they had recently moved from St. Louis) or what kind of compression we’d get.”

That last-minute transient demand came in slightly above expectations, he said.

But that will account for only a small piece of the pie, with much of the reservations being placed by the NFL, businesses and sponsors years in advance, Chambers noted. He said that helped keep demand from wavering even amid the scares of the partial government shutdown.

“The NFL does a great job procuring the vast majority of hotel rooms within a certain radius of the venue as part of the selection process,” he said. “That helps secure 80% to 90% of the inventory at premium rates.”

Wurm and Chambers said they’re also seeing positive length-of-stay trends this year, with three-night stays expected within a 20-mile radius of the stadium.

STR, parent company of Hotel News Now, projects marketwide rates to triple for the Super Bowl. While a typical February weekend in Atlanta is expected to draw average daily rates of $90, STR projects a rate near $271.20 for Super Bowl weekend. Coupled with an occupancy boost, revenue per available room is projected to jump 350%.

While that sounds like great news, absolute occupancy and ADR projections for Atlanta are expected to be lower than they were for many other recent Super Bowl hosting markets.

The projected 80.9% occupancy falls short of what Minneapolis/St. Paul saw in 2018 (92.5%) and Houston in 2017 (84.2%). And the projected ADR would be the lowest for a Super Bowl host since Dallas hosted the event in 2011 ($207.38). The RevPAR percent change isn’t expected to be the lowest—that would be the 109.9% increase in New York in 2014—but it is expected to hover in the same rough range as New Orleans in 2013, Phoenix in 2015 and Houston in 2017.

Preplanning alleviated worries
Hoteliers seemed confident that travelers would be able to get in and out of the city as needed even during a prolonged government shutdown. Chambers noted plans to add additional staffing at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport helped alleviate concerns at the regularly busy airport. But the nature of the event itself meant confidence never sagged significantly.

“One interesting phenomenon (around the Super Bowl) is a tremendous number of attendees are sponsors or are being entertained by sponsors, so there will be a lot of private jet traffic,” he said. “And Atlanta has multiple jet ports in the area.”

Wurm said the city has “done a fantastic job preparing” and the additional support expected to come in at the airport will help deal with the high demand period.

“This is certainly a city that is well versed in handling a huge influx in a short period through the airport,” he said.

Even with that said, hoteliers are glad to see the shutdown situation resolved, so there is one less thing to worry about.

“The hotel association helped put together a comprehensive campaign for members on both sides of the aisle,” Breslin said. “I understand there are differences, but you have to work it out.”

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Headline: Super Bowl to showcase, invigorate Atlanta hotel market

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Article Time: 10:20:00 AM