The Vermont tourism economy is reopening, will visitors want to come?

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 5:58 PM EDT
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Vermont is opening up to more travelers, but is there a demand from visitors to help the struggling hospitality industry?

The Hotel Vermont in Burlington has been closed for months during the COVID crisis. It reopens again on Wednesday, but only three floors of rooms will be available to customers. The key for many of these businesses is to salvage what's left of the summer tourism season and hope that they're able to make it through the fall.

Cleaning crews at the Burlington hotel are hard at work sanitizing the rooms from top to bottom. From the beds to the coffee nooks in the hallway, everything gets disinfected. So when guests come, they can feel safe.

"We have bookings. I wouldn't say it's a good amount, but it's been a start," said the hotel's Hans van Wees. He says they'll be welcoming 30 visitors on their opening day. He's hoping for 100 by the holiday weekend, but expects they'll only be at 40 percent capacity this summer, a time when they'd normally be full. "There's some anxiety about traveling."

Governor Phil Scott Monday said the state's automated tracking of cars coming into and out of Vermont shows travel is increasing. He says while they don't know where people are coming from, they've noticed an uptick. "People are coming," he said. "We're trying to market Vermont to Vermonters first, but I believe there is still a demand to come to Vermont because of our low positivity rate."

The state commerce agency has rolled out advertisements they will be using to attract travelers from counties where case numbers are low enough, encouraging people to come spend their vacation in Vermont. The campaign touts the state's open air and outdoor recreation activities.

Van Wees says any effort by the state helps. He says Hotel Vermont is also doing their own marketing to reach previous customers, because that's who they see returning. "We're trying to make lemonade for the summer and give our guests a good experience," he said.

Van Wees says a concern among many in the lodging industry is what happens once the main tourism seasons are over and some businesses won't have enough cash set aside to make it through the slow season.

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