Atlanta businesses hit hard without Dragon Con fans Labor Day Weekend

For more than 80,000 people, Labor Day weekend in Atlanta means one thing: Dragon Con.

But Ghostbusters, Stranger Things and Harry Potter are nowhere to be seen on Peachtree Street this year.

The sci-fi and fantasy convention moved entirely online because of the pandemic, disappointing more than just participants, but also Downtown Atlanta businesses that largely exist because of massive events, such as Dragon Con.

"We understand that Dragon Con is not just about the attendees, Dragon Con has grown to the point that it's about the City of Atlanta,” said Dan Carroll, a spokesperson for the convention.

Take Carrie Burns' business, for instance, Atlanta Movie Tours.

Burns walked FOX 5’s Emilie Ikeda past her former office on Nelson Street.

“It feels pretty surreal,” Burns said.

After eight years, she closed the doors on her brainchild, last month.

“Tourism really starts to pick up in March, April, May,” Burns said. “We were all going into our busy season right when it hit. When something like this happens, tourism is hit so early on because those conventions and large events have to cancel.”

Even after introducing virtual excursions and private tours, she estimated a 97 percent loss in revenue compared to last year, and Burns said such shortfalls can be seen across Atlanta's tourism industry.

“Everything is so tied together here, we're a huge convention city,” she added.

For those businesses still hanging on, Carroll promised record turnout next year with fans' pent up excitement.

In the meantime, he offers this plea to fellow Atlantans: “As soon as things are safe and you're comfortable, get a night in one of those hotels, celebrate our partners, come to Atlanta and go to those restaurants Downtown. There's so much there year-round.”

With plans for an “epic comeback” next September, Carroll said organizers are hoping to embed additional virtual opportunities as well, to make the convention more accessible.

Dragon Con 2020, which was offered free worldwide, was accessed more than 600,000 times by fans from 49 nations.

While Atlanta businesses didn’t reap the usual benefits of the convention, vendors and artists sold reportedly more than $200,000 in merchandise throughout the event.