How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting metro Detroit's tourism & hospitality industry

Posted at 4:31 AM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 06:25:28-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer travel season, is just days away. But this year, travel season will be different.

The COVID-19 pandemic is hammering hotels, restaurants, museums and entertainment venues in metro Detroit.

Sandy Levine, a partner in Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, said the restaurant laid off all of its staff.

"Until there's a vaccine, you know, carryout and curbside," Levine said. "And people bringing our food home to eat is going to be a huge part of our business."

Levine is one of the nearly 350,000 people across the region whose job relies on tourism travel and leisure.

"Our industry is all about bringing people together, encouraging them to leave their homes and come in and socialize," said Larry Alexander, CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. "And unfortunately, COVID-19 is saying "separate."

Alexander said the industry had shaken off the effects of the 2008 recession and was growing by leaps and bounds. To keep that going, he said they will have to adapt. New layouts for meeting rooms, temperature check at venues and 50 percent fewer seats at restaurants, an expensive bind for businesses.

"When you try to reduce your cost, you don't have the same level of enjoyment or interaction that has been there in the past," Alexander said.

However, he said metro Detroit has the same positives as before the shutdown: it's still affordable, easy to reach by air and ground with great events and attractions.

Back at Chartreuse, Levine longs for the hustle and bustle of a packed dining room.

"I didn't ever think about how much I would miss that," Levine said.

Here's the Rebound Rundown:

  • Tourism and hospitality is one of Michigan's largest industries. There will be changes to how events, conventions, hotels and restaurants operate.
  • Detroit's strengths are unchanged; everything that made Detroit a destination before is still here.
  • Alexander says there could be some pent-up demand in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and other states.
  • So many people want to get out and see each other face-to-face, we just need to be careful about how that happens.
  • That pent-up desire can help power Detroit's tourism rebound.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.

See all of our Helping Each Other stories.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.