2021 hotel bookings and event turnout shatter expectations

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 4:12 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2021 at 6:14 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - New Year’s revelers are expected to bring in lots of money to the Baton Rouge area.

Area leaders attribute a successful Christmas weekend as an indicator. After a devastating blow to the hotel and restaurant industries last year, the 2021 holidays indicate things are finally looking up.

“Hotel reservations were actually better this year than we’ve seen in several years,” said Ben Blackwell with the Hotel Association.

Blackwell added hotel bookings and revenue not only exceeded last year but was also better than 2019 before the pandemic turned it all upside down.

“You know, Christmas time in the Capital City is definitely a time where people more leave the city than come in. So, I think this year you had more people visit family and bringing themselves into the market,” added Blackwell.

Turnout for events also took many by surprise, exceeding all expectations.

“2021 turned out to be much better than we expected and we’re cautiously optimistic about 2022,” said Paul Arrigo with Visit Baton Rouge. “We hope the 2022 numbers reach that of 2021.”

And with hotel bookings and heavy event turnout comes business for the restaurants. Jim Urdiales, the owner of Mestizos Mexican Grill, said this was one of his best years.

“I’d have to say it was one of our strongest weeks we’ve seen in a long time,” explained Urdiales.

But while service is making a strong comeback, what Jim is lacking is staff.

“Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, front of the house we’ve been really fortunate, back of the house just doesn’t seem like there’s people applying. Actually, almost no one has applied,” continued Urdiales.

He may be shorthanded but noted at least his business is making progress.

Experts say what we’ve seen so far this holiday season is nothing but positive. And even with the current surge in COVID cases, the larger turnouts are expected to carry into New Year’s weekend.

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