CHICAGO (CBS) — The region’s cold air is sending a shiver down the back of Chicago’s tourism industry.
This is just as some get back on their feet from the worst of the pandemic; a winter cool down in visitors looms.READ MORE: Chicagoan David Kronfeld Shares Advice To Career Success In New Book
CBS 2’s Chris Tye reports there may be one saving glory arriving in a week. Big Bus Tours Chicago took a Big brutal break during pandemic when it was closed for more than 400 days.
“Everyday it felt like a make or break during COVID.”
When they re-opened in May, tickets sold at about half what they did in 2019.
“The hardest part was to write a budget and to look into that crystal ball and say what’s going to happen in the next 12 months. We had no idea,” said John Curran, Vice President and General Manager of Big Bus ToursREAD MORE: 1 Person In Critical Condition, 8 Displaced After Fire In Aurora
For those selling Chicago by land and by water, the crystal ball gets again murky as fall slowdown arrives. In coming days, the bus company will put in Plexiglass to winterize it. But in seven days, something more meaningful for this industry happens: International travel get a big green light.
All vaccinated international travelers can again enter the U.S come Monday. They need to be have vaccines recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO.) That’s mainly, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca or those with mixed doses of those.
In a typical year, more than 30% of their customers are international. This year it was 3%.
“The international traveler means a lot to Chicago. They stay longer and spend more,” Curran said. “The Euro, the pound, the exchange rate is very favorable for them. We are on sale for them. And those countries many of them are very highly vaccinated already.”MORE NEWS: AAA Provides Best And Worst Times For Post-Holiday Travel
The message from Chicago’s tourism industry to world travelers: If your arms are vaccinated our arms are open. The largest pockets of tourists for the local bus and boat tour companies are from Central and South America, Canada and Russia.