THOMASVILLE — Local hoteliers are usually booked solid this time of year for events ranging from local and area high school graduations to university commencements in neighboring Tallahassee, Florida.
The universities’ football games overflow also fill local places of lodging. Some Florida State University fans have standing Thomasville hotel room reservations, said Bonnie Hayes, City of Thomasville tourism manager.
“Wedding business for Thomasville is big business,” Hayes said, pointing out that caterers, florists, tuxedo rentals and hairstylists are among the businesses that receive economic boosts from weddings.
Cancelled proms also are taking a financial toll on businesses that depend on prom-related purchases to keep their enterprises in the black.
Large weddings at two Thomasville plantation wedding venues have been cancelled or rescheduled.
Hayes said Thomasville leaders anticipate that tourists will return as soon as it is safe to do so.
“In anticipation for a strong fall travel season, many businesses are using downtime now to prepare for their future visitors and guests,” she said.
The tourism office is seeing an increase in visitor requests for information.
“People are ready to get out,” Hayes said, "and just as our hoteliers and attractions are using downtime to prepare for the future, many potential visitors are using this time to make plans to visit us in the fall.”
Tourism supports all facets of business in Thomasville, Hayes said. According to the Thomasville tourism office, figures for Thomasville/Thomas County show tourism supports 660 jobs in the area and creates an annual payroll of $15.5 million.
Recent Georgia Department of Economic Development figures show Thomasville’s direct tourist spend was $77.3 million in 2018, according to Hayes.
Jeremy Emmett, chief operating officer and partnership owner of the Hampton Inn, as well as the Courtyard by Marriott under construction, said he is taking advantage of every resource available to retain employees during the virus crisis.
“We are using the period of low demand to complete enhanced cleaning and maintenance programs and focus on employee training,” he said. “When business returns, we will be ready to greet our guests with a higher level of product and service quality than ever before.”
Thomasville has been a popular tourist destination for a long time, Hayes said.
“Its attractive downtown, unique local businesses and historic charm have come together to create a destination visitors really enjoy exploring,” she added.
Just before the COVID-19 crisis, the tourism office experienced record numbers of groups coming to the area. Rescheduling the groups is a top priority for the tourism of branch of city government.
A group made up of outdoor writers was scheduled to visit the city in May.
“This group, as well as a high-profile group of international business consuls, are looking at dates for fall to reschedule their trip,” Hayes said.
She thinks the third quarter of 2020 should bring some economic recovery.
“Groups rescheduling their tours will be competing for available hotel rooms and working around reservations that were already on the books for the fall,” Hayes said.