Small business owners in the East End tourism industry want to describe this summer in two simple terms: “more normal,” although most were hurt when last season was shortened by a pandemic. ..
Kristen Reynolds, CEO of Discover Long Island, the region’s official tourism promotion agency, said:
Industry insiders are betting on “a summer that’s completely different from the roller coasters of the 2020s,” she said.
“More and more people are vaccinated and the governor is relaxing virus-related restrictions. For small business owners in our travel and tourism sector, it’s about what this summer could bring. It’s a great source of optimism and excitement, “Reynolds said.
She said the growing demand for “classical long island summers” by residents and visitors would be a good omen for the region.
Roger Dow, CEO of the American Travel Association, a non-profit industry and advocate based in Washington, DC, agrees. He said Long Island is in a good position to attract tourists this summer, but warned that it would still take years to fully return to normal.
He said Long Island is a “drive market” and is ideal for day trips such as beach visits and outings to farms and vineyards.
Dow said the island’s “many beautiful open spaces” are still vigilant for viruses and are attractive destinations for guests who want to continue practicing social distance, whether vaccines or not. .. As a result, this area is likely to bounce faster than other areas, he said.
However, there are still challenges that will prevent the tourism sector from fully recovering, Dow said.
“Many international travel restrictions are still in place and many companies are effectively choosing to do business … On islands and elsewhere, the loss of international travel and business trips remains a major concern. “He said.
“When we bring the number of tourists back to pre-pandemic levels, it happens more slowly and takes much longer.”
Travel associations predict that a recovery for the industry as a whole can take more than five years.
In 2020, travel spending plummeted 79%, while travel spending in the United States fell $ 245 billion (70%) to $ 103 billion, according to Philadelphia-based research firm Tourism Economics. It was. Leisure travel spending fell 30% from $ 824 billion in 2019 to $ 577.0 billion in 2020.
“As long as we recover, we rely on our leisure time. [travel] To carry the day, “Dow said.
We talked to three long islanders in the East End tourism business about pandemic-related struggles and what happened when things went back to normal. Here’s their story:
First dip, then boost
When the pandemic broke out last year, business manager Susan Halladay The Jamesport Bay Suites property, which has 14 rental units in South Jamesport, said Inn saw a “sudden depression … no nod” in the business.
“There was a flood of cancellations and we had to refund everyone,” she said. She estimates that the business has lost $ 10,000.
Haladay, who also runs Adventure Paddleboard & Kayak, a paddleboard and kayak rental company, said last March and April were “over stressed.”
She only worked financially thanks to her third job: she works as a teacher’s assistant at a nearby school.
“I relied on the job for my income,” she said. “But that wasn’t enough to keep the staff. We had to fire four hotel workers, three cleaners and one handyman. They had to be unemployed. I had to. ”
But in July and August, “something started to happen,” she said.
“People started coming out of the city to escape [from the virus], Looking for a nice place where they can be socially distanced … these have never heard of us or didn’t know we existed before the pandemic They were people, but they found us because it was happening. ”
She said the layout of the inn is suitable for extending social distance. The doors of the rooms face outwards, and guests rarely need to cross each other’s roads.
The rooms have a kitchen to accommodate visitors interested in long-term stays. And people were staying longer, Halladay said.
“Some were’working from home’, but I was able to get a view of the sea,” she said. “Others were taking children and doing distance learning.”
According to Halladay, these stays helped turn things around. Since then, she has brought four hotel employees back to work, saying she expects “an insane summer with no gaps between bookings.”
She said most of the weekends in July and August were already booked and some were from pandemic repeaters. Relax here on the water or. ”
“Everyone wants to go to the East End in the summer … but that part is the most normal part of everything. We’re ready.”
Carngo, owner of EH Eyewear, two East Hampton stores, a bicycle rental and sporting goods store, Khan Sports and a sunglasses shop, never imagined that the pandemic would make him “as a business owner and as a person.” He said he tested the method. ..
“It definitely forced me to push myself to the limit,” he said, “in almost every way.”
It forced him to close his optician store for several months, and Ngo had to dismiss a small number of employees.
But it also led to a big business explosion at his bike rental store. Cabin fever, gym closures, fears of virus transmission on public transport have rejuvenated people … bicycle turmoil.
Wasn’t that good news for NGOs? “Yes, no,” he said, and the demand was so high that the supply chain was tense.
Bicycle sales from April to July (the peak of the US ban) increased 81% from the same period in 2019, according to Port Washington-based market research firm The NPD Group.
“Suddenly it became a bike, a bike, a bike, and at that point I couldn’t even order from the manufacturer. Some factories were closed. Some items had little or no parts in stock, and some items There was a three-month backlog. Shipment delays. ”
“I have a friend who went out of business because he was out of stock. It was crazy. I had never seen such a thing happen in my 24 years of business.”
In the case of Ngo, the bike jackpot increased Khanh’s Sports sales by 40%. He said the money he earned at that store helped offset losses at other stores. Money aside, Go said the most lasting effect of the pandemic was on his mental health.
“I’m still dealing with it, it really cost me,” he said. “It was a non-stop job 24 hours a day. I couldn’t quit. I have to continue. What if I quit?”
The pace of busy business at NGO stores has since slowed down — it’s still busy, but he said it wasn’t. “And that’s okay. That’s what I’m looking forward to this summer.
Time to prosper
Elaine Fredrickson, along with her mother Minnie Costas, owns the Drossos Motel, a 14-room “symbolic and vintage” inn of grandparents John and Alexandra Drossos, who opened in Greenport in 1963. I will. , She considers herself lucky.
“Many people were in town trying to escape, from the city, from Brooklyn, or from Manhattan. [from COVID]I want to be outdoors.Some visitors were staying [Greenport] Much longer than otherwise. “
“It was certainly not a bust for us. It’s strange to say, but we prospered.”
With an 18-hole miniature golf course and a snack bar, Fredrickson said the Drossos is from guests who want to rent a nearby home, stay in a summer home for a long time, or enjoy it in a socially remote location. He also enjoyed business.
The motel closes in winter and usually reopens by April.
Last year it didn’t open until June. But, “Our season, which usually ends on Labor Day, didn’t end there because there were still so many people here. For us it was great …” We are the new Hampton. ” It was like. “She said.
At the start of this year’s tourist season, Fredrickson said her guess was “it’s going to be nuts.”
According to Drossos, a recent influx of bookings has seen a couple of couples postponing their wedding early in the pandemic and now reschedule the event and trying to secure room for guests. I am.
The reopening of nearby attractions like the Greenport Carousel and the resurgence of the Dance in the Park concert series at Mitchell Park are “positive” she believes will attract even more visitors.
“It hasn’t started yet, so I’m wondering,’Where did these people come from?’” She said. “It should be a good season … back to normal, that’s what we all want, that’s what we all are waiting for.”
“We are ready to return to normal,” says three East End companies.
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