LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — A nearly $3 billion industry in Lancaster County is struggling due to COVID-19, but officials believe tourism will bounce back this summer.
The county may only be in the yellow phase of reopening, but officials say it’s still a good time to plan a visit.
Sal and Cassandra Maria drove to Lancaster County from Delaware. Daily drives are a small part of their "new normal."
"A lot of daily drives," said Sal. "It’s our first time getting to do something like mini golf."
Monday afternoon, they hit the green at Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Mini Golf in East Lampeter Township, where Cassandra scored her first hole-in-one.
"She's young, and we want to be able to give her things that we didn't have when we were kids," said Sal.
Typically, this time of year, they’re less than two miles down the road at Dutch Wonderland. However, the attraction is still closed due to COVID-19, and no opening date has been announced yet.
"We have our season passes, but what's nice is because they didn't open on time, they've actually extended it for two seasons," explained Sal.
Other popular Lancaster County attractions are also still shutdown, and because they can’t bring in customers, Sal believes some of the smaller ones aren’t drawing as many either.
"Especially with the restaurants and the hotels, cause you know, there is family that come out and spend their whole week here for a vacation to go to Dutch wonderland, go to the outlets," said Sal.
"As a whole, tourism certainly has really felt it," said Joel Cliff, the director of communication for Discover Lancaster.
Tourism is the county’s 6th largest industry, according to Cliff.
“25,000 plus jobs, nearly a $3 billion dollar economic impact per year - 3 billion with a B," explained Cliff.
Attractions, such as theaters and entertainment, have been hit the hardest. Cliff says retail and dining have done alright, and lodging could be doing worse.
"Tourism always bounces back," said Cliff. "It's a resilient industry, and I think in the end, it's because it speaks to human nature. Lancaster, one, is a world-famous destination for lots of great reasons, particularly amish farmland, so it draws folks. Two, it's a very affordable destination."
There is some good news for people who hope to see a show or ride a roller coaster.
"We've not seen indications that attractions are calling it off for the summer," said Cliff. "We have locations, as well as outdoor activities, that are open or are starting to reopen. It's an opportunity, maybe it's a little something different than you've done here before -- maybe you've never gotten down to the trails along the Susquehanna River, or maybe you haven't explored the roadside stands in the countryside."
Employees with another popular Lancaster County destination are hoping it opens soon too. Strasburg Rail Road plans to reopen as soon as the county goes green. Officials say it generates $11 million in annual revenue. Two thirds (⅔) of Strasburg Rail Road’s annual revenue is generated by its Guest Experience (tourist) operation, which features a fleet of twenty restored historic railcars and a stable of steam locomotives. It attracts an average of 300,000 guests each year.
According to officials, once it reopens, all Strasburg Rail Road guests will have their temperatures checked. People who have a temperature 100.4 degrees or higher will be denied entry. Guests over two will be required to wear a mask. All tickets must also be pre-purchased online in an effort to mitigate the spread of germs. Trains will also be cleaned between trips. Each railcar and each shop building will initially be limited to no more than 50% total capacity.
Sight and Sound Theatres is also closed through July 15th, per its website. It says employees are monitoring government guidelines and will make scheduling adjustments, if necessary.