With mask mandates and physical distancing in place, retail shopping saw a significant decline. Like many small businesses, Impressions of Saratoga had to learn how to pivot and adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to adding floor spacers and hand sanitizing stations, they implemented a new ecommerce website to make online shopping more effective for both themselves and their customers.
The restaurant industry has also adapted, offering outdoor dining, curbside pickup, and a variety of food delivery apps. Here in Saratoga Springs, local restaurants have implemented QR codes rather than paper menus, which helps to minimize contact and comply with health guidelines. Due to reduced staffing and seating restrictions, many local restaurants started offering takeout during the pandemic. DZ Restaurants saw a 30% growth in their takeout business from the previous year.
The meeting and event industry learned to pivot, implementing hybrid events and virtual experiences. And things are starting to look up! According to the Knowland Group, the number of U.S. group meetings in April increased 58.5% over the previous month, and the average number of attendees per meeting was 63, not far off from the average of 74 people in April of 2019. At the local level, April Lodging Occupancy for Saratoga County was 48.4% compared to 24.3% last year. Average Daily Rate was $101.51 compared to 96.80 last year, and Revenue Per Available Room was $49.17 compared to $23.48 last year. While we still have not caught up to 2019 levels (pre-pandemic), it is good to see that we are going in the right direction.
With restrictions being lifted and vaccinations going up, people are starting to feel comfortable holding in-person meetings. According to an April poll from the Global Business Travel Association, two-thirds (65%) of poll respondents feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment.
The second half of 2021 will be an incredibly busy time for meeting venues, and it will only get busier over the next 12 to 24 months as larger meetings and conventions rebook their postponed events.
We are excited to see many meetings and conferences returning to Saratoga Springs this summer and fall. With arts and entertainment returning to SPAC and the racetrack opening this July at near capacity, the future looks bright!
While there looks to be a light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a long road of recovery ahead for local business owners. As patrons, we can continue to support our local businesses by ordering takeout and shopping locally.
Saratoga will soon return to the bustling, vibrant city we all know and love. We understand this must be done safely, but if we all work together towards this common goal, life will soon return to some sense of normalcy.
Written by Darryl Leggieri, President, Discover Saratoga