Vt. lodgings can reopen May 22, but with pre-quarantine who will come?

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 7:30 AM EDT
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott Friday extended the state's emergency order to June 15. He amended his 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' policy to 'Stay Smart, Stay Safe.' It means that Vermonters can get out more and allows for opening the spigot a little more, allowing for the reopening of businesses including private campgrounds, marinas and lodging facilities.

Hotels, B&Bs, and campgrounds can start taking reservations and can open on May 22nd with restrictions. But as the bulk of visitors -- and cash flow -- traditionally comes from out-of-state, there are still lots of questions surrounding how required self-quarantine rules will work.

Caryn Lawrence is the owner of the Maplecroft Bed and Breakfast in Barre. She bought the place several months before the COVID crisis, which brought her business to a screeching halt.

"I had three weeks of operation, then everything closed down. It's been tough," Lawrence said.

But Gov. Scott's announcement promised a light at the end of the tunnel for Lawrence and thousands of others in Vermont's hospitality and tourism industry.

"Allowing a limited opening of campgrounds, marinas, and lodging facilities, but they must comply with safety guidelines, capacity limits and cleaning guidelines," Scott said.

Those guidelines include a 25% capacity limit and a month-long record of all guests so the state can contact trace for COVID cases if needed. Compliance is based on the honor system.

"I would just encourage folks around them to comply, because the sooner we get this right, the sooner we can open up," Vt. Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said.

But under the rules, out-of-state visitors will still have to quarantine for two weeks, meaning many visits would be impractical.

Lawrence says this could put a dent in summer revenue. "I don't see us doing the numbers that we all hope to do. Not a whole lot of Vermonters come here, it's mostly out-of-state," she said.

Kurrle offered that Vermonters could help out by booking a "staycation" in state. "It's very early to tell, but right now we want to get things moving and get the camping and the lodging and the marinas moving," she said.

A big chunk of visitors come for the state's bars and restaurants, pumping millions into the economy. State officials say they'll make an announcement about outdoor dining by June 1.

Even though the tourism sector may have a slow start this summer, Lawrence says she remains optimistic that Vermont can pull through. "I think it can be salvaged. If by the fall, we have this slow roll, I think we should be okay," she said.

Governor Scott says an announcement is coming by June 1 about the gradual opening of personal services like hair and nail salons.