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Decreased tourism a symptom of COVID-19 fears

Posted at 12:16 AM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 01:16:36-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Spring Breakers like Hattie Gregg aren't letting COVID-19 halt their vacation, but as they visit destinations like the U.S.S. Lexington, they are taking extra precautions.

"We’re really just trying to not touch handles and like open doors with our hands, use our shirt, just be safe that way," Gregg said. "Other than that, we’re not too nervous. Just trying to wash our hands a lot."

But concerns surrounding COVID-19 have had a direct impact on local tourism.

USS Lexington Museum Executive Director Steve Banta said Spring Break is one of the busiest seasons on board the ship.

"Spring Break can be up to 3,000 people a day, normally, and so we’re well below even half of that on some of the days that we’ve had here." he said.

He said total Spring Break numbers were 30-35 percent lower than what was projected.

While general admission guests are still welcome, special events and school group visits are canceled.

The Lexington will not accept groups exceeding 10 for tours and visits.

"We have very low numbers right now, which, the silver lining of that is we don't have large congregations of people," Banta said. "This is a very large ship. There's not any place on this ship where we have any large congregations of people at one time. As much as I love seeing high attendance numbers, of course, for business, that's not the concern right now. The concern right now is the safety of guests and the low numbers actually help that."

And numbers are down over at the Texas State Aquarium, too. Texas State Aquarium President and CEO Tom Schmid said it saw a big drop in numbers over the weekend.

"Right now, for the entire month, we’re about 20 to 25 percent below where we thought we would be, and kind of below what we would be in a typical Spring Break," he said. "So clearly this has had a big impact on our attendance."

Schmid said last year the aquarium had around 35,000 guests the first few weeks of March. Now, that number is down by about 10,000 people. That's an impact of around $400,000.

"Whether we're open or whether we're closed, we're going to continue to rescue wild animals," Schmid said. "We're going to continue to deliver our educational programming. We'll continue to keep our staff employed. Obviously we have a lot of animals we care for every day so we'll continue operating no matter what happens."

The aquarium has eliminated their presentations, shows and their 4D theater.

The U.S.S. Lexington has also closed their on-ship theater.

Both attractions said they are regularly cleaning their facilities.

"We're monitoring this on a day to day basis and we realize at some point we may need to close the doors," said Schmid.