Travel is rebounding after the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the hospitality industry. Tourism promoters at Visit Dallas want the Memorial Day weekend to mark the return of Dallas as a destination for leisure visitors.
Visit Dallas CEO Craig Davis said hotels were down to 10% occupancy a year ago but business has rebounded, higher he said in Dallas than some other cities.
A Dallas convention with 6,000 visitors is booked for July.
“Things have really turned the corner in the last 60 days and we see a dramatic increase in the month of May,” Davis said. “We are very, very positive about the future of Dallas.”
One new Dallas attraction is the AT&T Discovery Center outside the company’s corporate headquarters on Commerce Street. The collection of restaurants and entertainment is like a Dallas Times Square.
“We are a city of culture, arts and attraction. And people can come here for a big city experience and they leave very, very happy,” Davis said.
There was evidence of the travel rebound with strong business at the DFW Airport Rental Car Center Friday.
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A group of visitors from Chicago and Baltimore who met at the airport for a Memorial Day holiday weekend in Dallas were among those waiting in a very long line at the Budget rental counter.
“I'm really excited. I've never been to Texas so I'm excited to see what you guys have to offer,” said Chicago tourist Goldie Williams.
Customers said the Budget rental wait took about an hour.
“Everybody has a reservation. They don't do walk-ins. So, everybody you see has been waiting for a pretty long time now,” said Baltimore tourist Vanessa Murray.
Rental cars are in short supply this summer after companies reduced fleets during low demand last year and now new cars are less available due to a computer chip shortage.
Jami Bonomi, traveling from Atlanta with two college-age children, was not complaining.
“We're visiting family. We're celebrating graduation, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, anniversaries, we're celebrating it all,” she said.
Her daughter Anna Bonomi blamed the holiday surge in business for the long rental car line after visiting DFW Airport earlier with a different experience.
“I came here two weeks ago and the line was not this long before. It’s interesting. I came for a job interview and now we’re here because of family and the line is so much longer,” she said.
The American Automobile Association of Texas forecasts a 60% increase in travel this summer compared to the stay at home orders of last year.
Daniel Arbruster with AAA Texas said roads will also be busier this Memorial Day holiday.
“Certainly, big metro areas like DFW, Houston, you could see one or two times, even three times the travel volume. In Houston, that’s what’s predicted. So if you’re traveling south, be aware of that. If your traveling I-35, just be prepared for delays,” Arbruster said. “We expect to see the number of people traveling for Fourth of July and beyond to continue to go up as well.”
The rebounding tourism industry means more jobs for Texas workers.
Hotels are having trouble hiring enough housekeepers to keep up with rising room demand according to the travel experts.
“I was talking to a hotel this morning, that they could run 100% occupancy this weekend, but they’re not able to because they had to cut down their offerings at the hotel because they couldn’t service those hotel rooms,” Davis said.
Vanessa Murray from Baltimore spent time in Dallas before, so she recommended this holiday destination to her friends.
“I think we are all excited, yea. I would say there are some good places to visit, a lot of sightseeing. I think it’s fun,” she said.
As more people feel safe to leave home and tourism demand returns, the travel people warn customers to book flights, hotels, and especially rental cars well in advance. Don’t expect to just show up at the counter and find a car waiting.