Rural tourism impacted by COVID-19

Updated: March 25, 2020 06:31 PM

As large counties across the state and nation work to limit travel in light of COVID-19, small counties are following suit. They say—protecting their communities from tourists and people with second homes is essential in fighting the spread of the disease. But, they worry about the impact this could have on revenue as spring approaches.


Cook County, in particular, is 85% dependent on tourism. But, on Tuesday, the county joined Ashland, Bayfield, Sawyer and St. Louis Counties in issuing a travel advisory.

"I think most of the businesses, including Visit Cook County are kind of in state of triage and shock,” Linda Jurek, Executive Director at Visit Cook County said.

These advisories come at a time when Northland businesses usually welcome many to town to enjoy hiking, fishing and other spring activities.

“We have a significant number of lodging properties. If you were to count pillows, for instance, we have over 6,000 places to rest your head, so that is significant. We have large, large resorts that are closed. That would be a signifiant impact and certainly a significant impact for Visit Cook County. That said, our dining, our retail and all of our other speciality services are dependent on tourism traffic,” Jurek said.

In the meantime, businesses will try to take advantage of state and national funding.

“The only silver lining in the midst of this is April is typically our slower season and and we do see a reduction in traffic so hopefully we can flatten that curve.” Jurek said.

Additionally, Visit Cook County has created virtual tours of a number of favorite places on their website for people to utilize while they shelter in place.

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