Franklin Hospitality Industry Picking Up In 2021

downtown franklin
photo from Visit Franklin TN Facebook Page

This article is part of our series “COVID-19: 1 Year Later,” exploring the ways COVID-19 has affected and changed daily life over the last year. For two weeks, we surveyed our readers on how COVID-19 has affected them. Read our survey results here. Today, we write about how the hospitality industry is coming back as people return to more normal travel patterns.

It is no secret that the hospitality industry has taken a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Visit Franklin, in 2019, 1.8 million people visited the city, and hotels were seeing a capacity rate of 80%. But, during the height of the pandemic, that number fell to 14%. Last year, almost 77% of those who responded to the Williamson Source’s survey about COVID-19 canceled travel plans last year. But things are getting better.

“Weekend travel has increased as more of the country is opening up,” said Visit Franklin interim CEO Lauren Ward, “but mid-week business is still slow.”

According to a survey completed in December 2020 by the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, businesses are still taking a “wait and see” stance on travel, however, the CDC’s recent announcement about travel and mask-wearing by those who have been vaccinated may change this view on business travel.

In the survey, almost 64% of respondents said that neither they nor their co-workers were not traveling for work, and more than 46% were “not sure” when travel would begin again. However, almost 19% of respondents believed it would begin again in the second quarter of this year, and just over 18% said travel for business would get going again in the third quarter of 2021.

In the same survey, by the first quarter of 2021, almost 18% of businesses were hosting meetings or conferences. Although, largely, businesses were not back to having any kind of events. When asked when their business would once again host conferences or meetings, more than 45% were unsure when this would occur, with 17% saying second quarter and almost 20% saying third quarter.

“Vaccinations are 95% tied to travel,” said Ward. “The more people who are vaccinated, the more tourism.”

The good news is that 71% of respondents to recent research done by Visit Franklin found that they had travel plans between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

While the CDC says that those who have been fully vaccinated can travel within the country this summer, it is suggested that all travelers continue to take COVID-19 precautions – wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, socially distancing, and washing hands frequently. However, according to recent news articles, the airlines, who have also been struggling financially, are not keeping those middle seats open. That means that on planes social distancing will be impossible.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “the car trip is still king.” That same article explains that booking a flight is more of an adventure than it used to be, describing it as “herding cats” because rules on airfares keep changing as the COVID-19 climate changes.

The good thing is that fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine. The CDC website states that “fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread SARS-CoV-2 and can now travel at low risk to themselves within the United States. International travelers need to pay close attention to the situation at their international destinations before traveling due to the spread of new variants and because the burden of COVID-19 varies globally.”