When COVID-19 struck Mississippi in mid-March, Vicksburg was on track to a have a banner year economically. The pandemic and the restrictions that came with it derailed the train.
March tourism and hospitality revenue was down 16% from fiscal year 2019 while April was down 30.7%. With so much of the city’s budget tied to tourism, including food and lodging taxes, the effects will be felt for many months to come.
According to Main Street America, 69% of Vicksburg businesses reported a loss of 75% or more from March 15 to June 1.
Laura Beth Strickland, executive director of the Vicksburg Tourism and Visitors Bureau, says 65% of her staff has been furloughed due to a 30% budget cut. The Vicksburg Information Center remains closed to walk-in traffic; however, the phones are answered seven days a week at 601-636-9421.
“Vicksburg’s hospitality industry has been hit hard during this time, but I am optimistic that tourism will also be a major driver for economic recovery,” Strickland said. “Vicksburg has always been a top tourism destination, and our community depends on visitors contributing to our local economy. Putting our resources into tourism will help drive our recovery.”
The Vicksburg Convention Center has had 27 cancellations to date including the Miss Mississippi pageant with a projected economic loss to the city of more than $2.8 million.
Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi was closed for 11 weeks with a projected loss of $5 million in economic impact to the city. The complex reopened this past weekend
One key factor that helped the hotel industry locally were the annual and bi-annual maintenance work done at Ergon, Grand Gulf and International Paper during March and April. But hotel revenue for March, April and May was still down 28%, resulting in an economic loss of $2.97 million compared to 2019. April and May alone were down 54.8% from 2019.
Many restaurants and small businesses are struggling to adapt to the 50% occupancy requirements and added restrictions.
Attractions are gradually reopening, and organizers are beginning to reschedule events.
There has never been a more important time to shop locally whenever possible and support homegrown businesses. Your neighbors need and deserve the support.