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ABC 17 News Investigates

Experts predict rocky road for tourism industry for remainder of 2020

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Local travel leaders says it will be a long road to recovery for the tourism industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has battered the industry as sports, events and travel plans have been canceled across the country.

Mid-Missouri was not spared and has seen large decreases in hotel occupancy and revenue.

In Columbia, the 2020 occupancy rate stayed nearly 20 percent down from where it was in June and July of 2019.

Columbia Hotel Occupancy Data provided by the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau

Jefferson City hasn't seen quite as large of a hit in the recent months. June and July saw a 5 percent decrease in occupancy rates from 2019.

Jefferson City Hotel Occupancy Data provided by the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Missouri Department of Tourism reported occupancy has slowly started to increase. Occupancy was at 20.3 percent statewide in April. For the month of July, Missouri's hotel occupancy rate was at 44.4 percent, increasing a bit from 38.7 in June, and 28.1 in May.

According the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association, revenue per available room has also been down in Mid-Missouri.

As of Tuesday, Trey Propes, the director of the association, said the state is down 45 percent in hotel revenue per room this year. In Mid-Missouri, Columbia is down over 40 percent, while Jefferson City is down over 25 percent. Those numbers are according to Smith Travel Research.

Propes said while things have gotten better over the past few months, that loss in revenue has caused significant job loss.

"That's 40 percent less revenue to pay employees, that's 40 percent less revenue they have to go towards benefits and to take care of the people who take care of their hotels," Propes said.

The biggest concern right now for Propes is the ability of hotels to be able to pay their property tax at then end of the year, since most hotels have been affected.

"When you are down that much, you are staring the property bill tax in the face and it doesn't look good," Propes said.

The association is advocating for hotels to the government, asking for any help and relief to the industry.

"We do understand that money doesn't grow on trees but we just want to make sure that by the end of the year we are alive and most importantly that we are going to hire back our workers," Propes said.

With Columbia on the list of top places COVID-19 cases are growing nationally, he said that will likely impact both local and state-wide travel, which is already sinking as many sports are not welcoming fans.

"They are just trying to hold on in Mid-Missouri and look for the light at the end of the tunnel," Propes said. "I couldn't tell you what that light is ... but i think that's what hotels are doing, just trying to hold on."

Spokeswoman for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau Megan McConachie said the number of hotel stays is likely to stay below where that number typically is for the rest of the year.

"That's something for the foreseeable future we are going to have to expect and kind of adjust for," McConachie said.

She said the bureau is hopeful that the numbers continue to go up, but understands there is a long road ahead.

Travel by plane is also down, according to both McConachie and Propes. That can be seen locally in the data, as Columbia Regional Airport has reported a 69 percent decrease in passengers on planes in August compared to 2019.

The bureau's main focus right now is communication. CCVB received $450,000 in CARES Act funding to focus on marketing safe travel, like outdoor events, shopping and other options. McConachie said it's going to be a team effort, including Columbia residents, to get the industry back on its feet.

"Locally, to help people understand that when we do take those safety precautions, do wear our masks, do socially distance, that allows for our travel industry to grow, and that's really vital for our local economy," McConachie said.

Columbia / Coronavirus / Jefferson City / Missouri / News / Top Stories / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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