San Antonio to host air travel conference in early 2022

Good news: San Antonio has a major, in-person convention on the books.

In 2022.

In February of that year, San Antonio will host the Routes Americas conference, an event that connects airport officials and airline executives to discuss expanding routes and air service, city officials announced Thursday.

Event organizers say they expect the conference will bring a much-needed boost to the San Antonio hospitality and tourism industry that’s been battered this year by the pandemic. Long-term, the conference could bring more airlines and routes to the area, officials said.

“Air service development is a key priority for the city and (San Antonio Airport System),” said Jesus Saenz, San Antonio’s airport director. “Routes Americas is an unparalleled opportunity to showcase our great city directly to the decision makers as well as bring a much-needed boost to our hospitality community utilizing our world class convention center, hotel rooms, venues and restaurants.”

Last year, the Routes Americas conference was held in Indianapolis, and brought together 700 delegates representing 90 air carriers. In 2022, officials expect the event to bring 1,000 participants to San Antonio.

While air travel picked up at San Antonio International Airport over the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s still down sharply from 2019.

On Holiday, diversions lure travelers into the skies

The passenger count at San Antonio International dropped by two-thirds in September compared with a year earlier. Airlines have at least temporarily eliminiated some routes while cutting the number of flights on other routes.

From Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, three million travelers passed through the airport, down 61 percent from the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, San Antonio’s hotels — magnets for conference visitors in the pre-pandemic era — saw their revenue fall by more than fifty percent from July through September compared with the same time span in 2019.

Hotel occupancy was at 41.6 percent over those three months, compared with an average rate of 65.9 percent in the summer of 2019.

On San Antonio hotels weathered big revenue declines in third quarter

“As a city, we’re committed to the meetings and conventions industry,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, pointing to renovations of the River Walk and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. “As our meeting industry has evolved and innovated in a COVID-19 environment, one foundation that has only become stronger is the San Antonio spirit of hospitality and enrichment.”

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