CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hotels are once again doing big business in Uptown Charlotte after a tough two years, but the return of travel is not happening in quite the way anyone thought it would.
"It's amazing," Giovanna Slaughter-Kanady, director of sales and marketing at the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Uptown, said. "The soccer team has been great and obviously the concerts are good too."
At Embassy Suites nearby in Uptown, they agree.
"A lot of things happening in Uptown Charlotte -- we're seeing sports and concerts every weekend," general manager Mike Masri said.
As of the end of May, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) leisure travel is up 105% in Uptown Charlotte – much higher levels than pre-COVID.
"The weekends are still are [the]highest occupancy, surprisingly it didn’t revert back," Slaughter-Kannady said.
Masri is seeing the same thing.
"Our busiest are our weekends -- we do 99%, 100% every weekend," Masri said.
Weekends are booked solid, and that means the Uptown hotels can charge more – and they are. Hotels are upping their weekend rates regularly right now.
The average rate for a room in Uptown is more than $200, the highest it’s been since the pandemic.
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"The rate is going up everywhere," Masri said. "We're trying to compete with everybody. The rate is higher than 2019, definitely higher and it does help offset the deficit we would see during the week."
During the week is a slow but steady recovery with business travel coming back week after week, but still plenty of empty rooms Monday through Thursday.
"It's going slowly, not as fast as we want it to go but it's going in the right direction, which is what we want to see," Slaughter-Kannady said.
"It's slowly picking up," Eric Habschie, director of sales and marketing at Embassy Suites, said. "We're not selling out during the week nearly as much as we had been in the past. It's the weekend business now. What we do on Tuesday and Wednesday previously, we're doing that on Friday and Saturday."
There is a sign that business travel will only continue to pick up. According to data from the Global Business Travel Association provided by CRVA, 87% of companies are now allowing non-essential travel and 82% of employees are willing to travel for business.