Despite promising signs of a return to normalcy, pedestrian counts, spending levels and hotel occupancy Downtown over the past year were roughly half of pre-pandemic levels.

These figures are detailed in Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.’s annual report, which shares plenty of optimism for future recovery, but could not avoid the fact that the last year was economically devastating for many Downtown businesses and hotels.

Total taxable sales in 2020 were $688 million, which represents an approximate 40 percent decrease from 2019 and almost 50 percent decrease from the $1.21 billion in taxable sales in 2018.

Downtown hotels also took a severe economic blow.

In the pre-pandemic fiscal year 2018 to 2019, hotels had an 85 percent average occupancy rate and $335 average daily room rate.

In the past fiscal year 2020 to 2021, average occupancy was cut almost in half, down to 48 percent, while the average daily room rate was $213.

Visitor and parking numbers show similar trends. During FY 2020 to 2021 there were 15.9 million total pedestrian impressions recorded on the 3rd Street Promenade, compared to 29.2 million in FY 2018 to 2019. Average daily parking peak occupancy was also cut in around half, from 62 percent in FY 2018 to 2019 to 28 percent in FY 2020 to 2021.

These overarching numbers paint a bleak picture, but when broken down more closely, contain nuggets of hope.

For example, while hotel occupancy reached a low of 20 percent in January, there was a relative boom in summer with occupancy peaking at 72 percent in June and average daily rates hitting $301. This is not far off from pre-pandemic numbers and indicates that Downtown Santa Monica still has a strong draw for domestic and local visitors, even if international travelers were, for the most part, precluded from visiting.

The Promenade pedestrian tracker also reflected this summer boom hitting a high of 115,817 pedestrian impressions on June 28, which is comparable to the 2018 high of 124,445 on Black Friday.

In order to help draw more visitors Downtown, DTSM launched a regional advertising campaign in July 2020 that was featured on over 100 billboards, and doubled down on its public relations and marketing campaigns reporting a total of 3,457 placements in newspapers, magazines, event listings, blogs and social media posts.

Rental rates were an additional positive indicator in the annual report. Despite the significant drop off in visitor numbers and spending, residential and retail rents retained most of their value over the last fiscal year, displaying an annual decrease of 4 percent and 5 percent respectively.

“Our emotional, physical, and economic recovery from the pandemic will take time and effort,” said Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., in the report. “But if we all do our part, and continue to collaborate and lean on one another, I am confident we will emerge stronger and more capable of meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”

Clara@smdp.com