Hotels and inns in Vermont can now operate at full capacity, and it couldn’t come a moment too soon for the state’s lodging industry.
In March, Gov. Phil Scott issued an order limiting hotels to 50% capacity. But unlike many businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, they couldn’t adapt as easily.
“You can’t sell an overnight experience to a bed and breakfast online,” said Amy Spear, Vice President of Tourism with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “You know, it’s something that has to be a tangible product and you have to sleep in that bed and breakfast to experience that.”
Spear says the pandemic has had a significant financial impact on lodging properties, as a result.
“Lodging properties sell a perishable product, and if a room goes unsold, the lodging property will never be able to recoup the revenue that would have been brought in for that room,” said Spear.
Scott Huntsman, Managing Director at The Lodge At Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vermont says he plans to make smaller adjustments to their operating procedures and reopen gradually.
“We’re very much feeling this as an opportunity and as a bit of a problem to solve to find the right balance between maximizing our occupancy, keeping our guests and colleagues safe, and, again, being able to provide the right experience,” said Huntsman.
Especially in the winter months, Stowe is the most visited mountain-town destination in the state.
“If you’re looking at a mountain-town travel set, Stowe generally doubles the meals and rooms and alcohol contributions of any other mountain-town destination,” said Spear.
But as Dr. Anthony Fauci advised Vermonters, it’s imperative to continue being cautious. In Gov. Phil Scott’s Sept. 15 press conference, Fauci shared some advice for the hospitality industry.
“You want to be courteous and welcoming but you also want to have a degree of protocol that I think safeguards not only the people who visit but certainly the inhabitants and the people who do live in Vermont,” said Fauci.
Spear says lodging makes up nearly 6% of Vermont’s overall economy. To ensure a safe and successful winter season, she told me the Vermont Chamber of Commerce will advocate for a rescue package to recover from what she calls “catastrophic losses.”
“…So we can see them on the other side and continue to and have those iconic Vermont experiences available to Vermonters and leisure travelers,” said Spear.