Tourism makes comeback along the lakeshore

Southwest Michigan

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Tourism in lakeshore communities is making a comeback after a challenging start to the season during the pandemic.

Abby Nemets, manager of Cookies on Call in South Haven, says once restrictions on travel and vacation rentals were lifted, more people started returning to the downtown shop.

“It’s definitely a lot more busy, beginning of summer. I think because everything was kind of shut down, people weren’t sure if it was safe to come,” Nemets said.

Scott Reinert, the executive director of the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says while the start of the summer was slower, the end of the summer is finishing strong.

“Especially on the weekends, we’ve been pretty well in the 90 to 95 (percent) occupancy rates versus five or 10% even in April and May,” Reinert said.

Even with the improvement, the beginning of the year was still very challenging for businesses.

“For the first five months of the year, we were down about 55% compared to last year,” Reinert said.

Antonietta Smith and her family traveled from southeast Michigan to South Haven for the weekend.

“We’re here to support all the businesses, small businesses that we can,” Smith said.

She says they’ve been taking more road trips during the pandemic and staying closer to home.

“We’ve been here a few times this past summer and beautiful beach, beautiful area, nice people,” Smith said.

Amanda Pellegrini’s family traveled to the area from central Illinois in a motor home.

Pellegrini has two children going into first and third grade. She says virtual learning will give them some flexibility to travel and extend their trips into long weekends.

“If you can learn on the road and have some fun while you’re doing it, might as well,” Pellegrini said.

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