Atlanta tourism still reeling from pandemic, but optimistic about vaccine

The coronavirus pandemic continues to cripple Atlanta’s tourism industry, but with hopes of a vaccine on the way, industry leaders in town are staying hopeful.

"We're gonna have a rough time for the next four months,” said William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitor Bureau. “But, I do believe that now we have this vaccine hopefully it will be distributed through the second quarter."

Then, Pate hopes the recovery can begin.

So far, he said the pandemic has cost Atlanta’s tourism industry $10 billion, with about 330 conventions that were supposed to come to the city canceling due to the virus. Pate said when the vaccine is released to the public, people will start traveling again which will jolt the economy.

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"When you travel, all the transactions that take place, you know you're eating out, you're going to attractions, you're taking Uber or taxis or Lyfts around,” Pate said. “There are so many things you do when you travel and all of those things add up."

When the pandemic first hit, Helen Taffet, owner of Sensational Baskets in Alpharetta was worried.

“A big part of our business has always been welcome gifts for hotels, for meetings, and it's been so impactful because there are very few face-to-face meetings," Taffet said.

But now, she said her business is busier than ever, especially with the holidays around the corner.

"I see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Taffet said. “I see enthusiasm and excitement about a vaccine and people wanting to get back in front of people and meetings and going to places."

Pate said that if all goes well with the vaccine, he predicts the industry will start to rebound toward the middle of the year and could potentially return to pre-pandemic levels within a year or two.

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