ATLANTA — Atlanta's economy continues to struggle to recover from the hit it has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there's temporary relief coming this week. The AmericasMart semi-annual trade show is expected to attract thousands of furniture, gift and apparel buyers.
Last March, when the coronavirus basically shut down Atlanta, more than 80 percent of Downtown hotel employees were forced out of work
The hospitality industry projected a $10 billion loss with hotel occupancy averaging just 36 percent.
But the demand for home goods has kept the AmericasMart thriving.
This week, 30,000 buyers will be Downtown to attend the furniture, gift and apparel trade show, following strict guidelines.
"We want to exceed the CDC protocols in everything from temperature checks to mandatory masks, and as a private facility, if someone does not comply we ask them to leave and we do," said Bob Maricich, CEO and President of International Market Centers and AmericasMart.
And he added that is not all AmericasMart will do.
"During the ingress and egress to the building social distancing is required. In the elevators, through escalators and the best part, we spread out people over 7.5 million square feet," he said.
And its providing valuable economic relief, the biggest boost since last March.
"Over 20,000 hotel rooms that we booked over an 8-day period that is projected to generate $36 million dollars in economic impact," said Mark Vaughan, Executive President of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
But the boost is only temporary.
David Marvin is the CEO of Legacy Ventures, which oversees 5 Downtown Atlanta hotels and more than 20 downtown restaurants. He's laid off more than 800 workers since last March.
"The restaurants that we run inside the hotels that we manage will do reasonably well, but our restaurants outside the hotels even within the district around the Mart will probably see very little pickup," he said.
Marvin blames it on reduced staffs, limited menus, and strict CDC guidelines on social distancing.
But in an effort to help the economy long term and encourage out-of-town visitors and conventioneers, Central Atlanta Progress is working to create the best possible image of the city as buyers descend here this week.
"We are going to step up our hospitality assets, our Ambassador Force, our Clean Up Teams, and our police safety assets and everybody is going to give this group a lot of special attention," said A.J. Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress and the Downtown Improvement District.
Even still, the hospitality industry predicts it may not fully recover until 2023 or 2024.
In the meantime, they're hoping to hit at least 44 percent in hotel occupancy and be able to bring employees back on a more permanent basis this year.