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After COVID dealt a devastating blow, Austin hotels are bouncing back

After the coronavirus dealt Austin hotels a devastating blow in 2020, rooms are now back in demand and the industry is ready to look ahead, industry experts say.

“As we talk to people in the lobby, they’re excited to get out try new things, whether it’s food, music or events,” said Fernando Estala, director of sales and marketing at Austin Marriott Downtown. “It’s a reset for everyone, including hotels.”

The 31-story Marriott Downtown, which is just west of the Austin Convention Center, was being built during the peak of the pandemic. It opened in March, as vaccines were rolling out and the notion of leisure travel was returning.

More:Austin economy continues to bounce back from pandemic downturn

Fernando Estala, director of sales and marketing at Austin Marriott Downtown, stands in the hotel's lobby. Hotels in Austin were hit hard by COVID-19, but are beginning to bounce back as people begin to travel for both work and leisure again.

“Tourism was starting to come back, particularly people who were driving from places like Dallas and Houston,” Estala said. “But the weekday traveler — the business traveler — was basically nonexistent.”

Now, with the  return of major events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Formula One racing, as well as a slight increase in business travel, Estala and other Austin hotel executives say they are feeling bullish about 2022.