Summer Comeback: RI ready to welcome back visitors

South County

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island is ready to enjoy the summer months again after missing out in 2020 due to the pandemic.

People are coming back out to do what they couldn’t do last year and businesses are hoping to make a financial comeback after a tough year with COVID restrictions.

Americans are ready to travel, with 70% saying they plan to travel in the next few months. Discover Newport says they are seeing a big influx of travelers from about a 300-mile radius booking hotels, making reservations at restaurants, and getting attraction tickets.

In the year before the pandemic, the Ocean State hosted more than 26 million visitors, this year travel and tourism leaders hope it’s a transition year before a full recovery is seen.

When asked, Gov. Dan McKee said the focus is getting people vaccinated to make sure the state has a summer of recovery. He says that with 70% of adults being vaccinated, people are going to have the ability to enjoy themselves as they normally would.

“The beaches are going to be fully open, our parking lots are fully open, our restaurants, all our hotels, and people are coming in,” he said. “We know that the occupancy and the reservation rates are going through the roof, so Rhode Island is going to be this destination for people to drive through, and hopefully to fly to.”

The volume of passengers at New England airports have been steadily increasing with this upcoming weekend expected to be the busiest of the year so far.

A T.F. Green Airport spokesperson says their numbers are up 2,000% compared to this time last year, although they are still at about 60% compared to pre-pandemic times.

With vaccination rates up, McKee says the field hospital is being broken down at the convention center.

“The convention center will host its first conventions in August, which is great, I think we’ve got one that will bring about 5,000 people in, another going to be about 2,500 people in,” McKee announced. “We’re ready to get rolling Providence, and also all of Rhode Island, all 39 cities and towns, we need to make sure we focus on all the small businesses in all our communities.”

In addition to the convention center, the ferry that travels between Newport and Providence is going to be up and running soon.

McKee said he thinks it will start running around June 18.

“My wife Susan and I have already done that a few years back before the pandemic. It’s a wonderful trip,” he said. “You see the whole coastline, so people who are visiting or even living here in RI, I love the sign ‘Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,’ I really think it’s appropriate, and we’re going to make sure people in-state and out-of-state discover beautiful Rhode Island.”

Although the weather is not going to be the best for the beach for Memorial Day Weekend, there will be a lot of crowded beach days in the near future.

All state beaches are officially open on Saturday, and beachgoers are encouraged to buy season and daily flex passes ahead of time to help avoid long lines at the parking lots. Beach passes can be bought online or in person at the Scarborough State Beach Overflow Lot.

Last year, despite the pandemic, 1.3 million people visited state beaches with Misquamicut in Westerly at the top with 389,000 visitors, followed by East Matunuck, Roger Wheeler, and Scarborough North coming in around the same numbers of more than 225,000 visitors.

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