Kevin Flowers

| Erie Times News

Summer in Presque Isle State Park

Watch the video of the highlights of the summer at Presque Isle State Park near Erie, Pennsylvania.

Erie Times News

2020 will be remembered as turbulent for Paul Nelson.

The owner of Waldameer Park & ​​Water World In Millcreek Township, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in new rules for wearing masks and social distancing at his family-run amusement park. The capacity was also limited.

Visitor numbers and income fell.

Waldameer, which normally opens at the end of May, had to start its shortened 2020 season in July.

“We had one of our worst seasons,” said Nelson. “The restrictions made it impossible. And all the numbers were very low compared to what we normally do. “

Nelson said the park’s business and revenues were down more than 70%. He did not publish exact figures.

Waldameer will begin its 2021 season sometime in May, Nelson said – with modest expectations.

“We know we are not going to have a good season but we will open up,” said Nelson. “It’s just hard to know how it’s going to go.”

Annual effect of $ 1.2 billion

Uncertainty was a key issue in 2020 for the Erie County’s tourism industry, which typically generates around $ 1.2 billion in visitor spending annually, largely given a large chunk of the economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic closed or severely restricted for months.

John Oliver, President of VisitErieAccording to the Erie County’s Tourism Promotion Agency, the region had an estimated 2 million visitors in 2020, or about half the number of visitors in a normal year.

VisitErie estimates hotel revenues in the area were down 38% from 2019, although exact figures were not available.

However, VisitErie’s share of the county’s 7% hotel bed tax earmarked for the tourism organization tells part of the story. Oliver said sales in 2020 were estimated to be $ 1.2 million, compared to about $ 2.2 million in 2019.

VisitErie receives 43% of this tax revenue. Erie Events, which operates the Bayfront Convention Center, Warner Theater, UPMC Park and Erie Insurance Arena, receives 57%.

Oliver said VisitErie received $ 500,000 from the county’s $ 25 million stake in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to offset tax losses. “2020 was a disappointment compared to 2019. But if we look at how our competitors did it, we weren’t that bad. Rochester saw hotel room revenues decrease by at least 53%. Niagara Falls in Ontario fell 73%.

“It wasn’t a great year,” said Oliver. “But we did well compared to these goals.”

As coronavirus-related restrictions wore off in late spring and early summer, visitors began to feel more comfortable traveling and people returned to restaurants, hotels, leisure facilities, and other attractions.

2020: Erie Tourism hit the ground running in April

In May, VisitErie played a leading role in the issuance of a 15 page reportas part of the Erie County Tourism Recovery Task Force, which outlines possible COVID-19-related protocols for tourism businesses.

The report suggested a number of protocols, including requirements for thorough, frequent cleaning and hand washing, social distancing, and other measures to keep people safe.

“Erie County was ready to reopen at that time,” said Oliver. “That is why we wanted to show, especially when dealing with restaurants, hotels and sights in various categories, that appropriate precautionary measures were taken.”

Let’s go outside

Presque Isle State Park was a local attraction that stayed busy during the pandemic.

The park drew an estimated 4.9 visitors in 2020, according to operations manager Matt Greene, who theorized that Presque Isle’s beaches, trails and lagoons “were a great way for people to get out of their homes in a relatively safe way to recover physically or to recover mental charge.

“If COVID did one thing in our industry, it has proven Parks’ worth,” Greene said. “I am assuming that we will again have an above-average number of visitors next year.”

More: When the water level is high, millions of visitors call Presque Isle State Park in 2020

Tammy Carmosino is the Account Manager at 200 Acres Sparrow Pond Family Campground in the parish of Waterford.

Carmosino said 2020 had mixed results and she was optimistic for 2021. The campsite is slated to open in April and close in October each year and typically receives between 5,000 and 6,000 reservations for a season.

“We were supposed to open on April 10th last year and weren’t allowed to open until May 1st with the restrictions,” said Carmosino. “We had a lot of refunds in the beginning because nobody knew what was going on.

April 2020: Erie recreation areas need to be opened

“But it started in June. Our hall and picnic pavilion were hit because of the restrictions, but people were tired of being penned in and we were probably only about 10% or 12% lower than a normal year. “

Carmosino says campers are quick to book reservations at Sparrow Pond for 2021. The campsite is slated to open for the season in April.

“We’re almost full for all of our vacation weekends. We have just set up 20 more campsites, ”said Carmosino. “People are grateful to be here when they come and to have something to do and something to do for their children.”

More: Vacationers turn to campers and RVs looking for solitude

Contact Kevin Flowers at Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.