At least four organizations canceled conferences or conventions in Austin citing health concerns after Texas ended its statewide mask mandate earlier this month. The cancellations cost the Austin Hilton hotel $350,000 of revenue, according to Austin Convention Enterprises, a city-created corporation that owns and manages the hotel.
“These were rooms that were already on the books and largely, what we saw was fallout, ironically, from the governor opening the economy,” said Joe Bolash, Hilton Austin general manager, during a March 16 Austin Convention Enterprises board meeting. “It was groups that were not comfortable returning to a fully-opened economy where there was no mask mandate in place.”
Gov. Greg Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate and capacity limits on business on March 10, pointing toward fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases in the state. Public health experts and political opponents lamented the move, saying it was too soon before the majority of the state was vaccinated against the virus or even eligible for a shot.