This time of year, the city of Augusta would normally be getting ready to host hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Masters Tournament during the first full week in April.

That won’t happen in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But there is hope, rumor and speculation about a possible Masters in the fall. Many believe that could be sometime in early October.

Augusta-area hotels are among many businesses hoping the tournament will tee off at some point this year. And if it does, they are trying to protect their biggest week of revenue.

A quick check of online hotel booking sites, shows most area hotels have inflated rates for the week of October 5 -12, similar to what is charged during Masters week. Some hotels don’t have any available rooms listed for the same week.

“It’s tough to book a group for a wedding right now in October,” said Rakesh Jasani.

Jasani’s Sycamore Investment Group operates several hotels in Aiken, South Carolina, including the Hilton Garden Inn. “We’ve got to protect ourselves, and I’m sure a lot of other businesses are doing the same,” said Jasani.

Greg Winey is president of NorthPointe Hospitality Management. His company runs The Partridge Inn in Augusta, and the new Crowne Plaza hotel in North Augusta. “You’re going to see hoteliers block out those dates as best they can or put a rate in there that’s a place marker until they have a date, so they’re protected,” said Winey.

“So you don’t have somebody that’s booking a $100 room, when maybe that hotelier was going to get $500 for that room. And that could be catastrophic fort the hotel because it is such a mainstay for their entire revenue for the year,” said Winey.

Most hotels are using a ‘closed to arrival’ policy for potential Masters week bookings. When you call to book for that week in October, they will take your information and essentially put you on a wait list until, and if, a date is announced for the 2020 Masters Tournament.

Hotel owners are also trying protect customers who do not want refunds and are holding out hope for a fall Masters.

“First and foremost, we had an obligation to the original attendees that had booked for April’s event,” said Winey. “So I would expect that if not all, most hoteliers would have shifted those prior obligations to October,” added Winey.

“So, if you had a reservation in April, and if you so choose, and from our vantage point 99% of our clients have chosen to re-book and hang onto their slot. So if it’s shifted to October they would in fact, have those rooms reserved for them,” added Winey.

“We’ve had a lot of people that we’ve issued refunds to, but there’s a large portion of guests that have said they’re willing to let us hold their deposit until we hear a future date announced,” said Jasani.

That same optimism holds true for local golf courses that are packed during Masters week. “As soon as an announcement is made, it’ll make a difference and we can recoup again,” said Dan Elliott, director of golf at Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta.

“And instead of the revenue we expected in the spring, we’ll have that in the fall, because it’s unprecedented. A Masters played in the fall would probably be a very exciting time here in Augusta,” added Elliott.

So for now, Augusta-area businesses wait for word from Augusta National Golf Club on the biggest week of the year in Augusta.