Will tourists be welcome in Vermont this summer?
The question of out-of-state visitors is key to opening the hugely important tourism and hospitality industry in Vermont. So far, the governor has been cool to inter-state travel. But as the weather warms, will tourists be welcome? Our Calvin Cutler reports.
John Underwood is the owner of the Inn at Montpelier. Two months ago he had to shut his doors because of COVID-19. His bed-and-breakfast wasn't selected by the state to house essential workers. All other lodging establishments were forced to close.
"We're not even allowed to serve breakfast. We're a B&B and so we can't even have anyone on the property and that's been brutal," Underwood said.
As Vermont slowly recovers from the coronavirus and opens up its economy, questions remain about the tourism and hospitality sector, which brings hundreds of millions of dollars into Vermont.
"Our strong season starts the first of June, where you get some international travelers and some regional travelers," Underwood said.
The governor remains leery of visitors coming into the state and potentially bringing the coronavirus with them. He has not dropped the quarantine requirement. So while lodging establishments can begin accepting guests on May 22, any customers from out of state will have to verify they've quarantined for 14 days before coming or when they get here.
"We have folks that are in our state that are not Vermont residents that have been here whether they are staying with a friend or a second home, that would be able to provide a certification that they would meet the quarantine requirement," Vt. Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said.
Hand in hand with lodging-- restaurants. And Gov. Phil Scott also hinted at how in-house dining can begin again. He says the 25% capacity rule like in retail stores will be a likely place to start. No word yet on when restaurants will get that greenlight.
"There's nothing that's perfect about any of these scenarios that we've rolled out because we don't have anybody that is enforcing this. We are still relying on people to tell the truth and adhering to the guidelines we've put forth," said Scott, R-Vermont.
With more details from the state still to come, many in the hospitality industry are eagerly awaiting the day they can open.
"All the jobs that put money back in the economy, they're out. You can give them money but they want to work," Underwood said.
State officials say they will issue additional guidance for hotels motels and B&Bs this Friday.