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A man walks in front of the now-visible letters that spell out Baton Rouge along the levee downtown, Friday, April 30, 2021, as river levels fall back down.

Baton Rouge hotel occupancy edged past not just pandemic era levels but even traveler demand in 2019 for the weekend before Memorial Day. 

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which reviews various economic indicators in the nine parish metro region, noted the metric Thursday in its monthly report. 

Both occupancy and revenues for hotel operators are even higher than before the coronavirus pandemic began which its in-house data cruncher suggests is an indication that "travel and tourism have rebounded significantly"

Revenue generated by hotels hit $3.2 million between May 23 and May 29 compared to $1.6 million in 2020 and $2.9 million in 2019, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association and STR Inc. a division of CoStar Group which tracks local hotel data. 

Likewise, hotel occupancy hit 63% in Baton Rouge during the same time frame, up from 14.6% in 2020 and 53.3% in 2019. 

Other economic metrics such as consumer spending and vehicle travel in the region are also above pre-pandemic levels. Consumer spending in East Baton Rouge Parish was up 8.8% compared to January averages in early 2020. In Ascension and Livingston Parishes consumer spending was up 12.3% and 12.6% respectively, according to credit card data.

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The biggest sticking point at this time is the metro area's jobs picture with a "stubbornly high unemployment rate (of 5.8% compared to 3.8% before the pandemic)," said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of research at BRAC. 

As such, some aspects of the global economic recovery is considered "jobless," meaning consumer spending from federal stimulus money is likely driving growth instead of businesses expanding from customer demand. 

The percentage of people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine in the metro area, is lower than the national average. This is considered a "potentially complicating factor in recovery," because if there's another surge of coronavirus cases it may prompt the government to restrict commerce once again in order to control the spread of the disease. 

Fewer than 40% of the population in East Baton Rouge Parish has at least one vaccine for COVID-19. West Feliciana Parish, where St. Francisville sits nearby Angola, has at least 72% of individuals with at least one vaccine shot. St. Helena has 19.6% with at least one vaccine shot. 


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.