COVID-19 affects Springfield tourism, travel, city and state finances

Editor’s note: A Year of COVID-19, The State Journal-Register’s in-depth look at the pandemic’s impact on our lives, continues through March. Watch for stories of challenge and triumph, ingenuity and perseverance, survival and lives remembered. 

Springfield’s hotel occupancy rate in January was 27.2%, the lowest monthly rate ever recorded since statistics began being kept almost three decades ago, and the rate was 16 percentage points lower than the same month in 2020.

The statistics were emblematic of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Springfield as a travel and tourism destination.

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced temporary shutdowns of Springfield's most popular destinations devasting the local tourism industry. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum reopened to the public June 30, 2020  with reduced capacity and temperature checks.

“It’s been devastating over the past year,” said Scott Dahl, director of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.

So devastating, he said, that 3,100 of the estimated 3,500 jobs in the capital city’s tourism industry — from hotel workers to meal servers at conventions and downtown restaurant employees — evaporated in 2020.

The pandemic has affected city government revenues and the bottom lines of Springfield’s two large acute-care hospitals. It has closed restaurants and increased demand for mental-health services.

Here are some examples of COVID-19’s reach.

Tourism

Some of the tourism-related jobs may have returned since January, but the majority haven’t, Dahl said.