Don’t call it a comeback: Austin hotels rebound but building never slowed

Two Hyatt hotels open in new downtown tower

Thompson Austin at 506 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, Texas (Hyatt)
Thompson Austin at 506 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, Texas (Hyatt)

Two new Hyatt hotels in Downtown Austin are leading the charge in the city’s hospitality industry rebound.

Last week’s opening of the Tommie Austin and the Thompson Austin signals the beginning of the hotel sector’s recovery, Axios Austin reported. The hotels share a recently completed high-rise at 506 San Jacinto Boulevard. While Axios’ description of the two as “boutique hotels” might be stretching the definition—they have a total of 492 guest rooms—they represent two of the chain’s vaguely nontraditional brands. In addition to the hotel, an apartment community with 331 units occupies several upper floors of the Thompson.

The Hyatt tower complex was developed by Chicago-based Magellan Development Group in partnership with BLG Capital Advisors, Geolo Capital and Wanxiang America Real Estate Group.

The ongoing pandemic had a crippling effect on Austin’s hotels—a vital part of the city’s tourism industry, which is largely based on annual events. Visit Austin, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, reported that 2020 downtown hotel revenue per available room fell 70 percent from 2019, when occupancy was 60 to 90 percent through much of the year. The cancellation of South by Southwest 2020 alone resulted in $34 million in lost hotel revenue, according to an analysis by New York site-selection consultancy Greyhill Advisors.

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Downtown hotels began to rebound to 39 percent occupancy in March 2021. More importantly, construction of new hotels continued at roughly the same pace throughout the various pandemic waves. Advocacy group Downtown Austin Alliance reported that “hotel development has not shown any indication of slowing down.” The city has added more than 5,000 hotel rooms since 2019, said Visit Austin CEO and president Tom Noonan. Every hotel project that was in the works before the pandemic moved forward, he said, continuing a boom that started in 2015.

Many of those new hotels—such as the CitizenM hotel that recently broke ground a few blocks from the Tommie/Thompson—seem to be hopping on the boutique-branded bandwagon, even if they’re not all exactly boutique in size or singularity.

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[Axios Austin] — Cindy Widner