Published on : Tuesday, May 18, 2021
What a huge difference a year can make for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Columbia.
The pandemic was in its early stages last March when Boone County officials enacted a stay-at-home order on March 24, 2020.
Occupancy levels for Columbia hotels dropped to 39 per cent that month as travel throughout mid-Missouri and the nation slowed amid coronavirus concerns. Those numbers rose back to 53 per cent last month, nearing pre-pandemic levels, according to bureau spokeswoman Megan McConachie.
“This is definitely a huge improvement over this time last year,” McConachie said. “Just people being able to gather again. There’s been a lot of pent-up travel demand, when people were in lockdown or in quarantine.”
Local hotels and businesses are banking on that demand increasing in Boone County. The bureau began noticing an uptick in occupancy levels and tourism before the county ended its health order this past week.
The county no longer has a mask mandate or social distancing requirements.
“The data that we’re seeing, there are a lot of people who are planning to travel in the next six months,” McConachie said. “The outlook for the future in the tourism space is a lot more positive.”
Visitors will benefit from the lack of restrictions when travelling to Boone County, but it also helps the bureau when recruiting conventions, meetings and sporting events, McConachie said.
With the expiration of the health order, visitors can expect a new normal from Boone County, according to McConachie.
The only holdup from local bars, restaurants and hotels supporting customers at full capacity is current staffing — something Matt McCormick, the president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, stressed as businesses welcome more customers.
However, things are finally moving in the right direction.
“Things are starting to slowly bounce back,” McConachie said. “It’ll be a long recovery, but the numbers that we’re seeing right now are definitely encouraging.”