Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Moab, UT

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    Business owners who sit on the advisory board of the Moab Area Travel Council said while sharing updates on Tuesday, May 12 that their hotels and RV sites were seeing no more than 20% capacity despite the city going into its second week of allowing visitors back to town. Commercial campgrounds, on the other hand, appeared to be in better shape due to the closure of public campsites.

    a hotel under construction
    File photo

    According to Moab Area Travel Council Executive Director Elaine Gizler, hotels specifically are seeing visitors check in for stays, but the amount of visitation for these businesses is “nowhere near what they anticipated.”

    “If they’re [allowed to fill to 50% capacity], they may only have 15% or 20% of that amount rented,” Gizler said. “I can imagine that their operation costs have got to be significant with the amount of rooms they’re allowed to rent.”

    Gizler said that she also believed there was confusion among potential visitors about what is open in Moab, since she has been getting calls from people asking about what amenities are and are not available.

    As of publication time, businesses from outfitters to restaurants and hotels to shops are all permitted to open, even if with limited capacity or operations. The only major closures currently in effect in Moab are at Arches and Canyonlands national parks — which are set to open May 29 — and public campgrounds operated by the Bureau of Land Management.

    Cherie Major, an owner of ACT Campground, said during the Travel Council meeting that business at her campground’s tent sites was going “great” because public campgrounds are currently closed. That has pushed campers to instead stay at commercial campgrounds like hers.

    Major said that she was concerned with the lack of social distancing that visitors were practicing at the campsite and the large groups from which she was getting requests — for example, to put up to 10 people on a single site. She said she was not accepting large groups for the time being because of public health concerns.

    Major also reported success with keeping employees on payroll using Payroll Protection Payment loans administered by the federal government, as allocated by Congress with the passage of the CARES Act. She also said she had secured a Small Business Administration loan that would cover six months of payments on the property mortgage.

    Conversely, Katie McKay, a sales manager for the local Homewood Suites, said that the hotel was having trouble rehiring employees that it had furloughed or laid off, most of them expressing concern about returning to work in the service industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Jason Taylor, the operations manager for the Moab Adventure Center, said that he had rented out only two cars from the Canyonlands Field Airport over the course of two months, and off-road vehicle rentals from his Main Street location were also struggling. “It’s not good,” Taylor said.

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