Hotels were packed as two big sporting events came to Erie, providing a much-needed boost in tourism during what usually is a slow time of the year.

“It’s a time that normally is a bit slow. It’s March. So it’s encouraging. We think that we’re starting to emerge from this pandemic with tourism coming back,” said John Oliver, President and CEO of VisitErie.

At the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel, rooms filled up quickly as more sporting events come to town.

“Oh yeah, it’s been a really good weekend for us, very busy with the Keystone State Wrestling Championships and some eSports that’s in the area. It’s been really great for the city and for the hotel. Our restaurants were packed this morning, really excited to see things starting to shift into spring and get more business,” said Daniel Pora, General Manager at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel.

With some area hotels at full capacity, Oliver said tourism is nearly at pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve begun to recover from the pandemic in terms of tourism here in Erie, probably at a faster pace that we might have thought. We definitely seem to be recovering faster than our competitors, which is Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Niagara Falls,” Oliver said.

Gas prices also could help the increase in tourism if prices stay high.

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“We actually saw that back in 2008, the last time gas really spiked, people from Pittsburgh and others were saying that they came up to Erie and said ‘Wow, you know, you’re this close,'” Oliver said.