Forecasts: Tourism may be down 50 percent this summer

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 3:45pm

Block Island’s Tourism Director Jessica Willi said during an online meeting today with the Block Island Tourism Council that while Block Island is positioned to have some seasonal business return for the 2020 summer, national business models forecast that tourism may decline by as much as 50 percent for the upcoming season.

The reason why Block Island may be better positioned, Willi said, is because 90 percent of the travelers who do come here are “domestic leisure travelers,” as Willi described them, who come for day trips and shorter stays.

“Block Island does not rely on huge events” that are major revenue sources for the community, said Willi.

Despite that, “We’ll be down 50 percent on the year according to general estimates across the country,” she said.

Willi said the news that has come out in the past few days in South County has been alarming, such as the fact that the Gateway Center in Newport has decided to close for the summer. Weddings scheduled for July have been cancelled.

Providence expects “massive, massive declines,” said Willi.

Tourism Councils across the state have been cutting staff, canceling events and suspending printed tourism guides, she said. The Newport Tourism Council usually operates with a $4 million budget. That budget is expected to be about a quarter of that for the upcoming fiscal year.

She said another reason Block Island is well-positioned is that people are looking for safe places to travel to. She said tourists “might not be in the mood to travel to New York City this summer to see a Broadway show.”

Everyone agreed the island needed to be opened slowly and responsibly.

This is a developing story. See the Friday edition of The Block Island Times for more information.