With COVID-19 restrictions in the city and campus easing, businesses in Athens are hoping for a lucrative tourist season.
Athens typically hosts a wide range of events during the summer months, such as Athens Beer Week and the annual Pawpaw Festival which attracts large numbers of visitors. Businesses in Athens are expecting an influx of customers due to the restoration of these traditional events.
“Previous summers have been, generally quite slow, apart from a few weeks where there are events,” said Amy Mangano, owner of Artifacts Gallery. “There were events in town such as Brew Week was a bit busier, and Nelsonville Music Fest weekend was busier and Fair Week was a bit busier.”
Ellie Olin, owner of Athens Uncorked, said she had high hopes for this coming summer in terms of receiving business.
“I definitely see people in general feeling a lot safer going out,” Olin said. “And just with the warmer weather, of course, that’s huge for business people. Especially as it’s getting darker later now, our terrace was pretty crowded last week.
Students also notice this change. Ian Kelly, a sophomore in marketing who works at Busy Day Market, said he has already seen an increase in visitors to the Athens and Ohio University campuses.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of people just coming to visit and see what OU is like, and see what campus life is like,” Kelly said. “Because with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and more people wanting to be active, they kind of want to explore more.”
With expectations for this summer, local businesses in Athens are gearing up for an increase in tourism.
Previously, Athens Uncorked offered lunch options during the summer, and Olin hopes to continue this and add more amenities to the cellar.
“A lot of things right now hinge on whether we can expand our seats in time,” Olin said. “I have a lot of people interested in coming here and making music. And we were able to do live… background music. And what I wish I could do then is have – on Friday and Saturday nights – live music outside.
Additionally, Mangano said that Artifacts Gallery hopes to increase its stock for the summer.
“I’m excited about ordering new t-shirts and cropping some of our old t-shirts,” Mangano said. “We have a bigger selection on our 5 and 10 rack, and we get a lot more sunglasses.”
Despite the encouraging outlook for some local businesses, others believe that with COVID-19, this summer could be unpredictable.
“Right now we don’t have any firm plans (for the summer) because it’s kind of a game by ear,” Kelly said. “Because usually when you expect one thing, it goes the other way.”
Ultimately, with the reduction in COVID-19 precautions and the continuation of previous events, local businesses have promising prospects for this coming summer.
“I feel like people are definitely ready to come out again,” Olin said. “I mean, I think people want to hang out with their friends.”