Collector’s Nationals Hot Wheels convention

The 21st annual Collector’s Nationals Hot Wheels convention held April 7-11 at the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia helped boost occupancy rates for local hotels. The Dunwoody hospitality industry remains below numbers from before the pandemic hit in early 2020, but it has shown signs of recovery.

DUNWOODY, Ga. — Businesses in Dunwoody appear to be recovering slowly but surely from the economic downturn incurred by the world pandemic, according to several key indicators.

Hotel occupancy is up significantly according to year-to-date data. Workers are returning to offices in the Perimeter area, and restaurants and businesses are seeing a steady uptick in customers in the past few months.

City officials say they are encouraged.

“We haven’t seen a significant loss of businesses like we thought we would at the beginning of the shutdown (in March 2020),” said Michael Starling, Dunwoody director of Economic Development. “I think we are in a really good spot, with the exception of the hotel industry.”

While the hotel occupancy remains far below pre-COVID-19 levels, Discover Dunwoody interim President Steven Schumacher said the numbers are on the rise.

“They are nowhere near the numbers that were recorded in February of 2020, where occupancy percentages were in the high 80s and 90s during the weekday, but they are increasing from March of last year, when we were at 4 or 6 percent,” Schumacher said.

While there were ebbs and flows that could be attributed to spikes in reported infections, occupancy rates have been slowly rising, with March numbers holding steady at about 30 percent, Schumacher said.

“The first Friday in April was one of the best we’ve seen in a year, with occupancy up 1,600 percent over this time last year,” he said. “It’s nowhere near where we want to be, but it’s very encouraging.”

Schumacher cited last weekend’s Hot Wheels Convention as an indicator that the hotel industry is beginning a gradual recovery. The event was held at the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

“The hotel was completely sold out through Sunday,” he said. “It’s great to have people coming back into the city.”

Office occupancy also seems to be on the rebound, according to reports from city officials.

“While occupancy is still around 15-20 percent right now, we expect that to increase significantly after Labor Day,” Starling said.

At a February Dunwoody City Council meeting, Johann Weber with the Perimeter Connects Program said about 25 percent of Perimeter Center employers surveyed said they had tentative plans to return to the office by the end of April.

According to those employers who participated in the survey, most predicted a gradual return to the office, but not until at least late in the second or the beginning of third quarter of the year.

The pandemic doesn’t seem to be slowing the influx of new businesses within the city. Five new businesses held ribbon-cutting ceremonies during the first quarter, including The Whole Tooth and Scenthound Grooming on Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Home Instead on Mount Vernon Road, Piccola New York Pizza on Winters Chapel Road and the Consumer Innovation Center on Ashford Lane.

Schumacher said that while statistics are important in measuring the recovery, he sees a lot of anecdotal evidence around the Perimeter Center area.

“I’m seeing a lot more people in restaurants wearing name badges, which means they are back in the office, and my commute is taking a few minutes more each week — and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she’s hearing encouraging news from small business owners around Dunwoody.

“Commercial centers seem busier, and I see more people out and about,” she said. “But I don’t think this is completely over. We need to continue to eat and shop locally and support Dunwoody businesses.”

Cathy covers local government and community news for the Dunwoody area.

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