Mississippi’s hotels and tourism industry struggle during pandemic

Mississippi’s hotels and tourism industry struggle during pandemic

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In most states, tourism is taking a hit with the country mostly shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. The Magnolia State is among them.

In the hospitality industry, hotels are practically empty.

This is National Travel and Tourism Week, but for places like the Fairview Inn and other hotels this could be a record year of losses.

“It’s been devastating to everybody. Nobody’s been left untouched with COVID,” said Fairview Inn owner Tamar Sharp.

The venue and hotel are usually booked solid from the beginning of the year through the summer wedding season.

Weddings, receptions, dinners have been cancelled and with only nine percent occupancy, they have been forced to close the Library Lounge, the spa and lay off most of her staff of 50.

“We had almost all of May and almost all of June completely booked and a lot of bike tours that were coming in from all over the United States, they cancelled their tours,” said Sharp.

According to Visit Jackson President and CEO Rickey Thigpen, hotel occupancy is down to 10 percent. Normally there is a 60 to 70 percent room occupancy this time of year.

Last year, the most significant in history, more than 30,300 hotel room nights were recorded.

Two-hundred-and-sixty-four-thousand people came to Jackson for meetings or conventions. There are currently no meetings or conventions.

Thigpen estimates Visit Jackson will lose at least $1 million dollars from their annual operating budget this year.

Officials do expect a slow recovery when the country reopens to travel.

“I’m hopeful that it will pick up, but I don’t think it will be very fast and it won’t be what we had on the books originally,” added Sharp.

Tourism officials expect smaller cities like Jackson will rebound faster than destinations like Chicago and New York because of fewer COVID-19 cases and the reluctance to fly.

Officials said people will be more likely to visit Jackson because it is a driveable destination.

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