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COVID-19 Puts Tourism On Hold In The Capital City

BOS Center Facebook Page

The tourism sector of Springfield is looking toward summer travel plans, rather than the spring conventions that usually bring millions of dollars into the city, because of gathering restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19.

Scott Dahl, director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this year the city had more events booked than usual.

“We’ve received multiple cancellations from conventions in both March and April,” Dahl said. We’ve had some inquiries for summer, but at this point, the main focus is the next 60 days.”

Dahl said organizers are backing out because of the uncertainty around the timeline and effects of COVID-19. The BOS Center in Springfield — which hosts conventions, concerts, and trade shows — has canceled several upcoming functions. Some of those events include the IWCOA Wrestling Tournament, the R-V and Camping Show, and the Mary Kay Conference. Dahl said the conventions usually range from a capacity of 350 to 2,500 people. 

Partly because of these cancellations, hotels throughout Springfield are reporting possible layoffs and closures. 

Dahl said it’s sad a lot of youth events like SkillsUSA and Youth Ministries Convention are canceled, but hopes they can be rebooked for the summer, or possibly next year.

“It’s unfortunate that the youth won’t be able to come to Springfield, visit the capital city, and see our historic sites,” said Dahl. 

Businesses aren’t the only ones who will suffer financially. The city’s finances will suffer, too.

“Generally in Sangamon County, travelers spend $460 million annually, they produce about $9 million in local taxes, about $3.5 million hotel taxes, the rest sales taxes,” Dahl said. 

Small businesses in downtown Springfield will suffer from the slow down of tourism as well. Lisa Clemmons Stott, executive director of Downtown Springfield Inc. said the area was prepared for the foot trafficking of visitors this spring.

“This is the start to the tourism season in downtown Springfield,” said Stott. “April was going to be a huge month as far as visitors coming in for events."

Through the suffering, both Stott and Dahl, still agree with state and city mandates to close businesses in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Visitors can go to www.visitspringfieldillinois.com for updates and closings for Sangamon County.

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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