NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Peak travel season is critical to Newport businesses, which make most of their annual revenue during the six-month period from May to October.
But as the city seeks to make a comeback after the pandemic all but halted tourism in 2020, businesses are faced with a new struggle: Mother Nature.
Sunny days have been few and far between as of late. In fact, according to the Pinpoint Weather Team, Rhode Island saw more rain in the first two weeks of July than it typically sees the entire month.
The colder, rainy weekends are having a big impact on lodging, with cancellations costing the industry millions this year, according to Discover Newport President and CEO Evan Smith.
“For our hotel and lodging partners, sometimes that can translate to 20, 25, as much as 30% cancellation rate when the weather forecast is bad,” he said.
But it’s not all bad. While an overcast day may not be great for the beach, shops like Sail Away Studio say they’re perfect for business.
“Sunny days, people are at the beach because it’s summer in Newport. Why wouldn’t they be?” said Martha Smith, owner of the Thames Street boutique. “I think it’s weather drive for sure.”
“There are winners and losers when it’s cloudy and rainy versus when it’s sunny and beautiful,” Evan Smith added.
Despite the wet weather, Evan Smith said Newport has seen a 15–20% increase in business this year compared to last. He believes people’s motivation to get out and about again is helping to offset the typical rainy day blues, and while the weather can affect where they spend their money, the city has plenty to offer.
“When weather is good, they want to go to the beaches, they want to go sailing, they want to play golf, they want to go sport fishing, so they’re going to invest their money in different things,” he said. “But when it’s rainy or when it’s cloudy, they are going to invest their money in stores and our museums.”
Evan Smith said compared to 2019, Newport’s tourism revenue is still down about 25% compared to 2019, but he expects the city will make a full-on comeback in 2022.