HOLLAND — After 16 months of canceled events, changing restrictions and severely limited travel, tourism in Holland is finally getting back to normal.
“We’re doing really well,” said Linda Hart, executive director at the Holland Area Visitors Bureau. “We’re very pleased, to be honest.
“We’re seeing visitors from all over Michigan and the Midwest. We’ve had visitors from Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. People aren’t afraid to travel anymore.”
In June 2019, hotel occupancy rates in the Holland area were 74 percent. After drastically lower numbers in 2020, that number rose to 70 percent in 2021.
“And we have more inventory, in terms of hotel rooms, than we had in 2019,” Hart said. “So, I’m chalking that up as a positive.”
Hart noted new extended-stay hotels in Holland Township — Home2 Suites by Hilton, StayBridge Suites by IHG and SpringHill Suites by Marriott — are performing particularly well.
“They have the amenities that people are looking for,” she said. “Dining is still an issue for our community. The shortage in labor across retail, lodging and restaurants is making it difficult to find places to eat with capacity. I think that ultimately trickles down to which hotels families are choosing.
“Some families aren’t quite ready to sit indoors at a restaurant, anyway. This makes it possible for them to dine inside their hotel.”
Hart added Holland saw very normal Fourth of July visitor numbers, and traffic has continued downtown ever since.
“I’m standing downtown right now and it’s packed,” she said. “It helps that we have so many options for outdoor activities. We saw a lot of people looking to do things outdoors last year, and we’re also seeing that now. People in the community are taking advantage of good weather, mild temperatures and a beach town.”
Businesses in downtown Holland have also begun staging a comeback, with many storefronts vacated during the pandemic already filled.
“We lost some businesses,” Hart said. “But what’s really nice about downtown Holland is, because we have such a thriving and robust town, new businesses came right in. It’s just a testament to downtown that, when we have an open storefront, there’s always another business waiting to move in.”
But even though Holland is a tourist destination, particularly in the spring and summer months, local residents have vacation plans of their own.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in clients,” said Michelle Zavala, owner at IBG Travel in Holland. “There’s been more comfort and confidence in being able to resume travel.”
Popular bookings are all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, trips to Disney World and Las Vegas and sightseeing tours of National Parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
“Those are actually sold out right now because people are most comfortable traveling domestically,” Zavala said. “Although, we’ve seen some countries reopen to tourism. For example, I have someone traveling to Europe, and that wasn’t available until just recently.”
While comfort levels have increased, Zavala has seen a spike in clients purchasing travel insurance.
“It’s always something we’ve recommended to reduce the risk,” Zavala said. “But now, there’s risk outside of their control and it’s hard to gauge what’s going to happen next.”
Like the wedding industry, Zavala is booking vacations into next summer and fall.
“It’s become so popular to travel now, and things are sold out,” she said. “So, people are moving their dates out. We’ve started booking as far as late 2022.”