FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Many weren’t sure the Razorback football team would have a season, but the Hogs are set to open the schedule against Georgia on Saturday. Despite football season being a high point for hotels and short-term rentals, one University of Arkansas economist said this season won’t have a big impact on the economy.
Mervin Jebaraj is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the UofA, and he said restrictions on capacity and the likelihood that attendance is made up of local fans will limit earning opportunities for the hotel industry.
“The attendance is going to be even worse than last season which we didn’t think would be possible,” Jebaraj.
Jebaraj anticipated most fans going to the game will be from Northwest Arkansas, meaning they’ll simply go home rather than book reservations at hotels or short-term rentals.
“There’s probably far fewer people willing to travel here from a greater distance away than they would be in other seasons,” Jebaraj said.
When the recovery process starts, Jebaraj said the hotel industry will be the slowest to return.
“They were the first out, and they’re going to be the last businesses to get back to normal,” Jebaraj said.
Taylor Rayburn and his wife own more than 30 AirBnbs in the Northwest Arkansas area, and football typically brings reservations and cash.
“We’ll always have high hopes for the Razorbacks,” Rayburn said. “That’s typically our peak season.”
Rayburn said the shortened season isn’t ideal for business, but safety is more important than anything.
“When they announced the new schedule, we were a little discouraged but just glad that we were at least still having something,” Rayburn said.