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St. Louis-area hotel occupancy surges: 'Things are really looking up'

"You get a sense that there's light at the end of the tunnel"
Credit: boyloso - stock.adobe.com

ST. LOUIS — Local hotel occupancy has risen dramatically in recent months, a welcome sign for operators that were decimated last year, even though there's still room for improvement as the pandemic wanes.

"Things are really looking up," said David Robert, CEO of Midas Hospitality, which manages 45 hotels in 13 Midwestern and Southern states, including 12 in the St. Louis market. 

For the week ended June 26, St. Louis-area hotel occupancy reached 69%, off from 76.5% in 2019 and up from 39.1% last year, according to hotel data provider STR Inc. From late March to mid-June, occupancy hovered between 52% and 60%, STR said.

"You get a sense that there's light at the end of the tunnel," said Brian Hall, chief marketing officer for tourism agency Explore St. Louis.

He said occupancy had hovered at about 40% for much of the fall, with a rebound beginning around spring break. Vaccinations began increasing around the same time.

Much of the boom is attributable to leisure travel, Hall and hoteliers said.

Illustrating that trend are STR data showing that weekend occupancy for the region has been reaching above 70% and even 80%. Weekdays, though, can hover between 50% and 60%.

Helpful to the leisure push has been an advertising campaign targeting those within a 300-mile radius, and funded with a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, Hall said.

"I'd never seen that many out-of-towners, families at our two downtown hotels" around spring break, said Steve O'Loughlin, president and COO at Lodging Hospitality Management, which holds the St. Louis Union Station Hotel and Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark among its properties

Youth sports tournaments are also boosting occupancy, O'Loughlin said.

And he said last weekend also was strong, as St. Louis hosted the U.S. gymnastics men’s and women’s Olympic trials, plus the 2021 USA Gymnastics Championships and USA Gymnastics National Congress & Trade Show.

But the recovery isn't being felt evenly across properties.

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