Apr 3, 2024 - Business

Office-centric Ballantyne is the only place not feeling Charlotte's tourism rebound


The luxurious Ballantyne hotel may be an exception to the trend in Ballantyne, Patel tells Axios. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Hotels have bounced back from a pandemic-induced slump all across Charlotte except for one neighborhood: Ballantyne.

Why it matters: It's the only market where occupancy hasn't returned to 2019 levels. That's because of its empty offices, said Vinay Patel, chair of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

  • Corporate travel hasn't rebounded like tourism for leisure, sports and conventions has, Patel said during a recent visit before Charlotte City Council.
  • Patel called Concord the "new Ballantyne" because all the happenings around the Charlotte Motor Speedway attract more visitors. The convenient I-85 exit and Concord Mills make it a popular stop, too.

Yes, but: Hotels citywide are expected to be filled to the brim once business travel returns in full force.

  • Charlotte drew 13.5 million overnight visitors in 2022, up from 11.4 million in 2021 and 9.4 million in 2020, according to city data. The latest total is higher than 2019, when there were 12.7 million overnight visitors.

By the numbers: Ballantyne's office vacancy rate is among the highest in Charlotte at 31.4%, according to CBRE.

The situation in Ballantyne may improve as workers continue returning to offices and The Bowl opens.

  • The Bowl will create a magnet in Ballantyne with a slate of new restaurants by big culinary names, like Jim Noble and Sam Fox. There are also more than 350 apartments being built in the area.
  • Companies are looking to locate in walkable areas, such as South End, near restaurants, bars, housing and open spaces.

Zoom out: Uptown hotels are faring very well, Patel says, despite an office vacancy rate of 20%.

  • Since tourism is more of center city's strength right now, city boosters are strategizing to capitalize on the area as a "central activity district" rather than a business hub.

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