Grand Island’s hospitality industry is expected to take $15 million hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.

“Hotel occupation tax revenues were nearly 50% less than March 2019,” Johnson said. “This is a direct result of COVID-19 and the cancellation of many conferences, events and business travel.”

Johnson said March’s lodging tax collection in Hall County was $41,740, compared to $81,726 in March of 2019. Adams County collected $7,287 in March compared to $15,016; Buffalo County saw a decline of more than $58,000; Lancaster County saw a decline of nearly $100,000 and Sarpy County $53,000.

In January, the lodging tax took in $49,238, up more than $5,000 from January 2019. In February, the lodging tax took in $63,952, which was up more than $11,000 from the previous year.

The lodging tax is used to improve or expand visitor attractions that are owned by the public or a nonprofit

“While these numbers are distressing, figures for April and May are anticipated to be worse,” Johnson said. “The hospitality industry is anticipated to see a loss of over $15 million.”

Memorial Day weekend is the start of a busy summer tourism industry as Grand Island plays host to many events that draw thousands of visitors, who then stay at hotels and eat at restaurants. The Nebraska State Fair is the biggest event of the summer, drawing more than 300,000 visitors during its 11-day run around Labor Day.

With lodging tax revenue down, Johnson said efforts are under to help Grand Island’s visitors and tourism industry recover from the impact.

“COVID-19 hit Grand Island a bit harder than the rest of the state, and with it came some national and regional headlines that cast a shadow on our community,” Johnson said. “This stings for all who know how smart, resourceful, and resilient we are as a community — the stuff that does not make the headlines.

Johnson said Grow Grand Island currently has planning for this campaign underway.

“Our way forward, when appropriate, must include an effective campaign, shouting throughout the land that Grand Island is safely open for business,” she said.

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