Why Vermont still isn't ready to welcome out-of-state visitors

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT
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Despite reopening more of Vermont's economy, Vermonters will still be the ones enjoying the services. That's because the travel quarantine remains in place. With it, our tourism economy is severely impacted. But as our Cat Viglienzoni reports, the state says they've got the data to show why allowing visitors in without a quarantine could put Vermonters at risk.

The lobby at Hotel Vermont in Burlington is empty.

"This quarantine issue is really key for us," said Hans van Wees, the general manager of the Hotel Vermont.

Van Wees says visitors from our neighboring states are key to reopening.

"To run a business that can sustain and survive, we need those visitors from those drive markets, very, very badly," van Wees said.

But Friday, Gov. Phil Scott said he is concerned about what he sees as a progression of coronavirus cases migrating north from the metro areas into New Hampshire. And said he doesn't want to see that happen here in Vermont.

"Really trying to make sure we don't lose ground as we reopen. And maybe it's too cautious, but I want to make sure that we're doing this to make sure that we protect Vermonters as well and that we don't do any or cause any undue harm," said Scott, R-Vermont.

Vt. Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak and the governor both cited a graphic showing up to 80,000 active COVID-19 cases within a five-hour drive of the state.

"We need to watch our neighbors closely because we are not an island," Pieciak said.

That's why the state says while they are trying to find alternatives to allow tourists to come into Vermont, they don't have a timeline yet for ending the quarantine requirements. Which Hotel Vermont's manager says is frustrating but understandable. They can start taking out-of-state visitors on June 15. He hopes they'll have clarity in time to decide whether it makes financial sense.

"We would need at least a week's notice. And the other thing we have to remember, too, is that our travelers need some notice, too, to make decisions to come," van Wees said.

He says ideally they'd get a couple weeks' notice and says while they're projecting lower numbers, if the quarantine is lifted, people will travel here.

I asked if the governor's push to Vermonters to take staycations was helping. He said they've gotten a few more calls but it's definitely not enough to offset the amount they will lose if out-of-state visitors don't come.