Tourism-dependent small business owners find surprising demand for water sports during coronavirus: ‘Way above average’

While the tourism industry is among the largest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, some business owners were surprised to find a new interest in sports and water activities that they hope to hold on to in a post-pandemic era.

Fish Tales Bar and Grill co-owner Shawn Harman of Ocean City, Maryland told “America’s News HQ” Sunday that while the summer has been “pretty tough” on his restaurant business, his marina boat rental service saw performed “way above average.”

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“That’s the only thing you could do here, social distance throughout the day,” he said. “The restaurant has been a bit of a struggle. We are allowed to expand into our parking lot to get, you know, 50 or 60% of our seating and we got some PPP money and our goal was basically to survive in advance till next year and we at least hit that goal.”

At the start of the summer, the tourism industry suffered a loss of $2.1 trillion in revenue and as much as 75 million jobs, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, a trade group that represents travel companies worldwide. With social distancing mandates extended throughout the summer, companies and small businesses were forced to pivot in an effort to recover the struggling industry.

Angler’s Covey owner David Leinweber of Colorado Springs was “looking at a huge amount of debt,” in May and was forced to lay off his entire staff, he told Fox News. But the overwhelming demand for family-friendly social distanced activities introduced an entirely new clientele to his fly fishing business, Leinweber explained.

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“The lights turned on in May for us and it has been explosive growth,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous growth this summer. Everyone is coming to us and looking to go fly-fishing and it’s been incredible.”

With summer camps shut down and limited options of permissible activities, families with children of all ages “came in and said ‘I want to take kids fly-fishing’ and that’s usually not our customer,” Leinweber explained.

Leinweber said the pandemic has “introduced so many new people into our sport that we are really excited that we are going to be able to capture these people and hopefully get them really hooked on it and that they’ll return next year.”

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While the Paycheck Protection Program helped many businesses” bridge that gap,” Leinweber said he is “actually quite excited and pretty optimistic about the future particularly once we get past the pandemic.”