MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - It's been a tough couple of years for hotels, restaurants, and event centers in Minneapolis as business travel plummeted - first due to a pandemic, then riots, and racial unrest.
The number of people coming for business in 2022 is estimated be down 42% when compared to pre-pandemic.
Local leaders acknowledge it won't be back for years, but they're trying to close the gap.
According to the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics, the volume of business travel will increase substantially this year nationally – perhaps reaching 80% of 2019 levels.
"Business travel is really such a big part of our overall hospitality community and we count on it so much," said Melvin Tenant, of Meet Minneapolis. He says leisure travel, local meetings, and conventions have been sustaining the hospitality industry for the past few years.
"We understand nationally that business travel won't come back completely until 2024," Tenant said. Tenant expects Minneapolis to get some new segments of business travelers with the Four Seasons Minneapolis opening in June.
It's the city's first five-star hotel, and it's generating lots of excitement.
"We know right here in Minneapolis many of the companies are beginning to send their workers back to their officers this month and so we think that will stimulate some business travel," Tenant said.
Ray Rodgers, co-owner of Lyon's Pub says he welcomes a return of business back to Downtown Minneapolis.
"It's been a long run the past couple of years obviously, with all the restrictions. It's cut down people moving around, businesses not being open like Target being one of the biggest ones where everyone comes to sell their wares to them so if you are not traveling and selling your stuff to other people it's going to be slow," said Rodgers.
Rodgers is beginning to see what he calls a steady trickle of people back to Downtown Minneapolis.
"I can see the business people coming in for happy hours so they are starting to get downtown and work again, that means that people are coming to see them," Rodgers said.
Both Meet Minneapolis and businesses like Lyon's Pub hope Minnesotans help get the hospitality industry back on track by venturing downtown for a weekend getaway.
Meeting and event-related room nights for this year are still down 30% compared to the total room nights generated from events in 2019.
Warmer weather, and special events like the Women's Final Four, should help spark a return of travelers to downtown Minneapolis.
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