With hotel occupancy at 34 percent May 10-16, the city’s lodging industry continues recovering from the decline in travel that began when stay-home orders were issued around the country. The first 16 days of May, in fact, resulted in almost as much revenue for hotels as they earned in the entire month of April.
While that’s news worth celebrating, the impact of the pandemic on the local economy has been tremendous. From March 1 through May 16, hotel revenue is down more than $17 million over last year, a 61.2 percent decrease. That means the city didn’t collect from hotels about $368,000 in sales tax and Greene County didn’t collect $303,000 in sales tax, and that doesn’t include sales tax that would have resulted from other spending visitors would have done while in the city. It also means $866,000 in lodging tax that provides funding to the CVB and other organizations, such as the Springfield Regional Arts Council, Discovery Center and the Sports Commission, wasn’t collected.
Those are tough hits to take and loss of funding will have an impact on the community until travel returns to normal, a timeline no one can predict with confidence.
While that’s bad news, the tourism industry does have a few shining stars this week.
The Missouri Legislature approved a bill that will allow Springfield voters to decide if they want to increase the city’s hotel tax and use the revenue for capital improvements that will result in tourism growth, such as a convention center or amateur sports complex. That issue won’t appear on a ballot until November 2022 at the earliest but it’s good to see a step forward in improving the city’s facilities that can host large group events.
Another piece of good news is Wonders of Wildlife announced today its plans for reopening along with how the facility is implementing a series of health and safety initiatives to protect the health of guests, employees and the animals.
The city also introduced Phase 2 of the Road to Recovery Plan that provides guidelines for businesses and individuals as restrictions originally put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are relaxed. Phase 2 will be implemented beginning May 23, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
And finally, I’m proud to announce that the CVB’s Spring Travel Auction, along with cash donations from CVB staff, raised nearly $4,100 for the Mother’s Industry Support Fund, a collaboration between Mother’s Brewing Co. and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to benefit hospitality workers who were laid off or lost jobs because of the pandemic. A big thank you to all the businesses that provided auction items for this worthy cause.