Local tourism industry looking ahead to the fall as COVID cases rise

Coronavirus

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — The summer season has been a good one for the Rhode Island tourism industry, but with COVID-19 cases on the rise again, there could be a setback.

Travelers are still heading to Newport but many are prepared with masks just in case private businesses request them.

Discover Newport says they are watching the data closely and are already seeing some impacts as they look ahead to the fall, while also keeping an eye on vaccination trends in bigger cities.

“We’re watching what New York City did and San Fransisco did, requiring cards for proof of vaccination before you enter a business,” President and CEO of Discover Newport Evan Smith said.

Smith says he is not currently anticipating that happening, but the impact of the Delta Variant is already being felt in other ways.

“The news of the last two weeks has really shown a decline in consumer confidence,” he said. “Going into summer, consumer confidence was at 75% in early June, and last week we dropped to 62%.”

Consumer confidence is translating into hesitancy when it comes to fall bookings for events and conferences.

“Some of the meetings and conferences that were scheduled have now said ‘I think we’re going to postpone a little further,’ so they’re not canceling, they’re just postponing… again,” Smith explained.

Just before Memorial Day Weekend, Smith said there has been a hope that cruise ships and J1 International Visas would both make a comeback, but that has not been the case.

“This faall we have no international travel coming in, we have limited motorcoach and group tours coming in,” he said.

Though with the hope that vaccinations increase, the outlook for the fall could improve — especially given the want for travel after restrictions put in place the past year.

“People’s passion for travel will always come back, no doubt about that, but the question is, ‘when do the dark skies clear and sunshine come out?'” Smith said.

Discover Newport is also watching what the state’s colleges and universities do in the fall because any potential restrictions will impact nearby businesses, hotels, and restaurants.

Also next month, certain unemployment benefits are set to expire so there’s a hope that will boost hiring in the hospitality industry and ease the impact of worker shortages.

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