Pandemic costs RI tourism industry millions of dollars

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The coronavirus pandemic has been catastrophic for Rhode Island’s tourism industry, according to Kristen Adamo, president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The bureau typically books events in the Providence metro area. Because most of them have been canceled due to COVID-19, Adamo said the state has lost roughly $48.6 million in revenue from tourism.

She said that dollar amount is “direct spending that the state of Rhode Island has lost – hotels, restaurants, retail, convention center fees.”

She said the pandemic has had a greater impact on tourism than 9/11.

“This is the worst we’ve ever seen since they’ve been tracking data,” she said.

In Newport alone, President and CEO of Discover Newport Evan Smith said the pandemic has cost the city nearly $300 million in tourism revenue.

“We’re going to be rebuilding one customer at a time,” Smith said. “Those early pioneers, the first to come out and travel, will be the ones to go back and report to people and say, ‘You know what, it’s okay out there. It’s actually pretty fun.'”

Travelers could soon return to Rhode Island as the state begins easing restrictions on domestic travel. Adamo said right now, they’re relying on people who drive.

12 Town Hall: How COVID-19 is impacting RI’s tourism industry »

“People are a little nervous about flying, so they’ll be able to drive here throughout the summer,” she said. “I’ve been starting to look at how to ramp up marketing in that drive market.”

Smith said they’ve been doing the same thing. A recent study completed by research group Longwoods International found that 77% of people planning to travel in the next six months will change their plans due to the virus. Smith has a message for those people.

“The marketplace has never been cleaner. So you have great specials, less crowds, a clean environment. It’s a great time to travel if you’re ready to travel,” he said.

During the month of April, Smith said the occupancy rate at Newport hotels was less than 10%. In a normal year, he said the occupancy rate is 85%. 

In Providence, Adamo said the hotel occupancy rate in April was only 12%. It’s typically 72%. 

“We’re small and mighty here in Rhode Island, so I’m confident we’ll get through this,” Adamo added. “We’ve got March Madness next year. We have a big slate of meetings and conventions. We just got to get to ’21.”

Both Adamo and Smith said the two things people are looking for right now are safety and value. They said hotels in the area are working to adopt safety standards, while also looking at ways to package other experiences with hotel stays.

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