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In the summer of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was relatively new at that point, increasing the precautions of individuals to travel and explore outside their own community.
However, as more and more individuals are vaccinated, and as cases decrease, the summer of 2021 is expected to be full of individuals traveling and exploring, as they did prior to the pandemic.
This bump in travel and tourism is what entities like the Amarillo Convention and Visitors’ Bureau are expecting, stressing the “wide open spaces” of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.
Hope Stokes, the director of marketing for the bureau, said what they are seeing is individuals being interested in cities that are large enough where there are things to do, but small enough to where they can be spread out and not be as close to others, as safety precautions against COVID-19 are still encouraged.
“Amarillo is kind of in that sweet spot. We are right around 200,000 (population wise),” she said. “We are very spread out, but there are still lots of things to do here.”
The city of Amarillo is also attractive to tourists who are going on road trips this summer, with the proximity of three major roadways, Stokes said.
“We have I-40, I-27 and then Route 66. We are the only large city that Route 66 runs through in Texas, so we are seeing a lot of interest in things like Route 66 (as well as) outdoor venues,” she said. “Palo Duro Canyon is getting a lot of traffic (and) places like Wildcat Bluff. We are seeing a lot more people out at the Canadian River as well. A lot of outdoor activities and anything that is road trip focused are things that we are seeing travelers interested in, something that is attracting a lot of people to Amarillo.”
The bureau is focusing on that road trip travel, as well as the outdoors, for individuals coming into town, Stokes said. If individuals hit those attractions, they could come into the city, spending their dollars at restaurants and local businesses, helping the overall economy.
But for those who may not be comfortable travelling far this summer, as the pandemic continues to wane throughout the country, the idea of “staycations” are also being promoted, especially with some of the community’s staples, like the “Texas Outdoor Musical” making its return in Palo Duro Canyon, Stokes said.
“I think that Amarilloans have always had an affinity to support our community. When we see things like ‘Texas’ that didn’t get to have their regular season last year opening back up, I think locals are more apt than ever to go out to those attractions and to those local businesses and support them,” she said. “Not only are they excited for themselves to get out, but they are excited to support the community and help these businesses who have been struggling to get back to normal.”
While Amarillo fared better than other cities across the United States during the pandemic in many areas, especially from a tourism perspective, Stokes stressed that attractions, local businesses and Amarilloans across the board felt COVID-19’s impact. She is excited for life to return somewhat back to normal.
“I don’t think it was any big secret that it was a scary time working in the travel and tourism industry during COVID. We are kind of finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and people are coming out and they are excited to get out and travel,” she said. “They are just looking for those right places to go and kind of dip their toe into the water and get back to normal travel. Amarillo is perfectly positioned to be that way.”
Stokes said the bureau’s expectations are for a bright future in travel and tourism for the summer of 2021 throughout Amarillo, stating that they have seen a constant incline in travel, as well as people getting out in the community to spend dollars.
“We expect that trend to continue,” she said.
For more information about events occurring in the Amarillo community throughout the summer, visit https://www.visitamarillo.com.