LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With a line just to check-in, The Galt House downtown had a packed lobby Thursday as visitors arrived in Louisville for Derby weekend.
"We are so fortunate to experience a busy hotel, finally!" Skip James, VP of marketing and sales for AJS Hotels, said.
While a normal year would sell out, The Galt House has nearly 90% occupancy for the weekend with just 1,100 rooms filled.
"The Derby is happening, the weather is good. We've had 960 checks today, so busy hotel. The associates are grateful to be here. We've got busy restaurants, our ballroom spaces are full," James said. "It's a great feeling. You feel like we're coming back."
James said AJS Hotels' other two hotels, Embassy Suites Louisville and Crowne Plaza Louisville both over 70% occupancy.
Over at the Omni Louisville, guests are welcomed by the new Derby Lounge as they check-in.
"Thinking back on the last Derby we had, were just really thankful," said Eamon O'Brien, the general manager of the Omni. "To have something close to half full is really welcomed here."
The Omni Louisville is seeing around 50% capacity for the weekend and O'Brien said he's noticed more locals staying at the hotel this year - a change from the usual out of towners.
"It's definitely a unique year, to say the least," he said.
Stacey Yates with Louisville Tourism said some hotels have even sold out for the weekend. After a hard hit from the pandemic, there are signs of recovery.
"We're hoping...Derby will really take us up another notch," said Yates.
The Omni said it's a start to feeling normal and positive momentum is building with leisure travel and conventions bringing business back to downtown and the hotels.
While there hasn't been a line outside of the Galt House in some time, Louisville hotels are hoping this weekend is the springboard to a busier season.
"It's beginning to come back," said James.
While the high demand for hotel rooms is great news for these businesses, hotels are still short on staff. They are urging anyone who wants a job to reach out to ask about their open positions.