It’s Wednesday night and that means Family Night at Leo’s Coney Island in Waterford Township.
For two hours a week, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Baffling Bill the Magician strolls the aisles, stopping to perform sleight-of-hand magic at tables with children with his assistant Gus the Rabbit, who assists by pulling the correct card from a deck picked by patrons.
More people, now vaccinated, are at least going out to eat more often, and more are expected to travel this summer, bringing some relief to hotels and restaurants which have struggled to survive through the 15-month pandemic.
Exact numbers are hard to come by, but most associations dealing with hospitality and travel are optimistic for this summer and the months after as virus case counts fall, vaccination rates rise and more people engage in what used to be a pre-pandemic normal life.
Sarah Horn is among the frontline workers who could not wait to travel.
As the Executive Director of Ascension MyHealth Urgent Care Center Group – which has locations in Macomb and Oakland County — she has had to work between 50 and 70 hours a week since the start of COVID-19.
Horn has remained busy since the early days of the pandemic when securing personnel protection equipment for the staff, staying abreast of the rapidly changing protocols, and setting up test sites and vaccination clinics to serve the community was most important.
“We’re still busy,” she said.
However, with the third wave behind, many frontline workers, teachers and other essential workers are finally being given time off.
In Horn’s case it was only a weekend away, but it made all the difference in the world.
“It was the break I needed,” said Horn. “My husband and I flew to Cape Coral, Florida and enjoyed four glorious days of fun in the sun.”
Horn said the airports and all flights to and from Florida still mandated masks but everywhere else in Florida they did not have to wear them.
Locally hotel bookings are rebounding, according to the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the website www.visitdetroit.com and promotes tourism in Detroit and Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties. Though perhaps not entirely back to pre-pandemic levels, the sentiment is that activity is headed in the right direction.
Renee Monforton, spokeswoman for the convention bureau, said hotel books so far have rebounded from extraordinarily low levels in the 20s to the mid 40 percentile range this year.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates hotel bookings more than doubled in April compared to the previous year when economic activity, particularly travel and hospitality, ground to a virtual standstill.
“We’re pretty optimistic,” Monforton said. “Occupancy rates are way up from last year. Within our region, there’s a lot of events that are going forward and that’s driving tourism too. We even launched packages designed to create some immersive travel experiences for people. Giving people the opportunity to reintroduce themselves to metro Detroit.”
Many people are expected to travel beyond the region to other parts of the state or country.
While the auto club AAA hasn’t released a summer travel forecast yet, it’s pre-Memorial Day forecast nationally predicted a huge upturn in travel to 37 million people traveling 50 miles or more, an increase of 60% from the same holiday weekend in 2020.
But earlier this spring, the auto club noted that more people were enthusiastic about a return to travel while continuing to urge precautions, such as calling ahead to make sure some destinations would be open.
“Road trips to domestic destinations continue to be the preferred way for many to travel, but even these trips require additional planning and preparation,” AAA noted in late March. “Those who make the decision to travel by car can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions, and to identify which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along their route.”
To aid travelers, AAA announced Thursday, June 10, that it would test sanitation levels at the 26,000 hotels it inspects nationally. AAA inspectors select guest rooms and bathroom locations, which may include guest room door handles, light switches, thermostat controls, guest room desk or writing surfaces, television remotes, refrigerator handles, faucet and toilet handles, hair dryers and vanity surfaces.
Hotels that meet AAA’s standards for cleanliness, condition and the new surface cleanliness testing will now be recognized as Inspected Clean and then assigned a Diamond designation by the auto club.
While the test does not provide direct identification of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19, it allows for confirmation of properly cleaned surfaces.
If renting a car, travelers can ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, according to AAA. That’s an enhanced vehicle disinfection and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, AAA recommends travelers use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.
Travelers will be able to find Inspected Clean hotels on AAA.com/Diamonds to help plan their trips later this fall.
Even as late as last year, optimism was hard to come by for hotels, and for restaurants that had struggled through shutdowns and limited capacity when they reopened.
As late as December, hotels and restaurants were sounding alarm bells based on surveys of lodging and hospitality memberships.
Significant survey results released for Michigan in December found that:
- 5,600, or 33 percent, or Michigan restaurant operators said it was unlikely they will still be in business in six months
- Two-thirds of hotels (approximately 850 in Michigan) reported they would only be able to last six more months at current revenue and occupancy levels without any additional relief,
- 52 percent of hotel owners said they were in danger of foreclosure,
- 89 percent of Michigan restaurant operators expected their sales to decrease during the next three months and 63% expected their staffing levels to decrease over the same period,
- 48 percent of Michigan restaurant operators say they were considering temporarily closing their restaurant until the COVID-19 pandemic passes
- 90 percent of Michigan operators said their profit margins were lower than prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and,
- 63 percent of hotels said they had less than half of their typical staff working full time.
After additional rounds of congressional funding passed that included more assistance to businesses, some of those worries were alleviated for many in the travel and restaurant industry.
“We’re finding out that the majority of restaurants in Detroit are fine but they’re experiencing staff shortages,” said Monforton at the metro visitors and convention bureau.