Summer travel impacted by COVID-19
Summer travel will look a lot different this year in Michigan with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
The tourism and travel industry in the state has lost millions due to the restrictions in place to help stop the spread. The economic impact goes all the way down the line from the transportation sector, to the hospitality and entertainment sectors.
Hotel Investment Services manages several hotel properties across Michigan. They've had to lay off thousands with some hotel occupancy rates in the single digits.
"We're not anywhere near revenues that even sustain a business. So you know, reaching deep into pockets of reserves to remain open. We've seen several properties in our area close and may close permanently because it's going to take too long to recover to be able to reopen," said Jennifer Ziegler, Area Director of Operations.
Ziegler says summer is a peak time for events and travel but most weddings and large events have been cancelled or postponed.
Dave Lorenz, travel expert and Vice President of Travel Michigan, says 50% of workers in the travel industry have been laid off or furloughed.
"If you were to look at any of the industries across the country, travel and tourism have been hardest hit," said Lorenz.
At Zhender's Splash Village Hotel and Water Park in Frankenmuth, COO Bill Parlberg is hopeful the lifting of Governor Whitmer's stay-at-home order will help with summer revenue.
"We lost one quarter of the year. Late March, April, May now we're into June we're open now but again we're just coming back, so it's going to be difficult, but possible if there's a lot of pent up demand," said Parlberg.
Everything is now open at Zhender's with reduced capacity except for their indoor water park. He says their phone lines have been ringing frequently with interested callers.
"Our call center has been extremely busy this week, which bodes well for the future for guests coming in to dine with us and also a lot of Frankenmuth starting to open up as well, so that's a big big plus," said Parlberg.
Parlberg added that they will have to have a strong July-December to see comparable revenue numbers to last year.
Lorenz predicts travel will primarily stay within state lines as people cautiously venture out.
"People are going to be finding and exploring, looking for small towns maybe they've never been to before where they can get out and not be with a bunch of crowds, and see and explore new and different places," says Lorenz.
Tawnya Johnson, SVP of Sales and Marketing for Hotel Investment Services, predicts the hotel sector will never be the same.
"Groups are going to be different. Hotel stays I think will forever be changed. When we went through 9/11 we had so many changes in airports and airlines. It never went back to pre-9/11. I'm not sure we'll ever go back to pre-COVID-19 in hotel stays," said Johnson.