Tourism levels rising again in Charlottesville, yet can’t reach full potential

Pamphlets of things to do in Charlottesville at the South Street Inn
Pamphlets of things to do in Charlottesville at the South Street Inn(wvir)
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 12:18 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -Tourism levels in Charlottesville are finally climbing back up after taking a deep decline during the pandemic but there’s still one thing stopping it from reaching its full potential. Hotel occupancy is limited by work force numbers.

Hollis Cate is the general manager at South Street Inn right by the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge. We find it’s hard to staff once we lose somebody,” Cate said.

During the beginning of the pandemic, the inn closed completely for many months. Cate says right when it reopened, staff numbers were still pretty high. Then, they only started to drop.

“We’d had some long time, entrenched staff that really knew the property really well and knew the business very well and so it was a lot smoother,” Cate said.

He says retaining staff for even a few weeks can be a difficult task.

“If we know that we’re going to be short staffed for a week or two, we will actually block off some rooms and not be able to be at full occupancy,” Cate said.

This is just one story of the many hotels in town. Cate along with the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau show it’s contributing to lower occupancy for the whole area.

South Street Inn’s story is one of many hotels in town, add all those blocked off rooms up and you get lower occupancy for the whole area.

“We’re not a very large city, and we are a large tourism destination and so it’s hard to source a workforce that you need to support such a robust industry,” Executive Director of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau Courtney Cacatian said.

Cacatian presented this information to Charlottesville City Council Monday, June 6. She then mentioned hotel occupancy in Albemarle and Charlottesville continues to rebound, specifically in April in comparison to last year. This is a reflection of tourism levels, and it’s still not where it was pre-pandemic. Cacatian is working to get those numbers back up with some increased marketing efforts and new tools.

“Usually with a tourism destination our size, you either have the large enough population to sustain it, or that is what the place is known for and so we’re in a really unique position of being a smaller place, but having a more diversified economy,” Cacatian said.

Staffing shortages are impacting the entire country, but Charlottesville’s unique situation makes it a bit trickier. Cacatian points out the City is lucky it does not rely on tourism, though it is a big part of the area at the same time. To really bring in more visitors, workforce numbers have to climb back up.

“We’ve had a lot of folks just not show up for interviews, or even after agreeing to come in for training, they don’t show up to their first shift and just not seeing not seeing the kind of follow through that we used to,” Cate said.

“If we want to see the the hospitality and tourism industry come back, but also our restaurants to stay open and be more open for more meals and more days of the week, treat people well,” Cacatian said.

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