MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont Gov. Phil Scott Friday, as expected, announced the easing of some tourism sector restrictions for out-of-state visitors from areas with lower COVID case counts. But some in the hospitality sector say the new rules won't help them because many of their guests don't meet the health criteria.
Willie Docto and Greg Trulson are the owners of the Moose Meadow Lodge & Treehouse in Duxbury. They-- and many others-- are reeling after having to cancel reservations for the state's prime tourism season. "It's been a lot of juggling around and looking at the numbers and making sure we have enough money to cover the refunds," Docto said.
Under the governor's order, starting Monday, visitors from 55 counties in upstate New York and New England with 400 or fewer COVID cases per million people can now visit without a two-week quarantine. The state is also increasing lodging capacity to 50%, including campgrounds.
"Vermonters can travel to these locations and return to Vermont without quarantining, though it should be noted they will have to adhere to any travel restrictions those states may have," said Scott, R-Vermont.
Out-of-state travelers will also have to come in their own car and have to sign up for the state's contact tracing software.
But Docto says the new rules do nothing for them. The vast majority of their guests visit from New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. New York and Connecticut don't have a single county that meets Vermont's criteria, and Massachusetts has just one, Dukes County.
"Those are our target markets. Ninety percent of our guests probably come from these zones. They're not coming from northern New Hampshire, where it's a very similar geography and experience," he said.
Scott acknowledges that the system isn't perfect and that many will still struggle even with the latest steps, but he says it's a step in the right direction. "There's nothing perfect about the system we have in place, but we can't shut down our borders and we can't screen people as they come in," he said.
But as the data and guidance change on a day-to-day basis, Docto says some in their industry are struggling with planning and passing on information to their guests. "If we've got questions, just imagine what travelers are thinking right now. Can they come to Vermont -- are they allowed? Can they have a wedding, a vacation, an anniversary in Vermont? The answer is different every week," he said.
There's a little more positive news for travelers. Starting June 15, the state says travelers can complete a 14-day quarantine -- or a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative test -- in their home state without further quarantine restrictions if they drive directly to Vermont.