COVID-19 grounds tourism, Route 66 businesses suffer

CARTHAGE, Mo. -The Boots Court in Carthage draws visitors from all over the world, making a pitt stop as they get their kicks on Route 66.

“Our business is about 1/3 international visitors throughout the year, and about 2/3 domestic visitors. We’ve had reservations of tours from Australia, New Zealand, Canada…,”explained Deborah Harvey, owner of the historic motel.

But the coronavirus has tourists pumping the breaks on travels. The Boots Court hasn’t had a guest since March 23, and the 67 reservations it had set up for April, all gone.

“You know we’re talking thousands of dollars here. We’re getting no income because nobody’s traveling for the fun of it, they’re only traveling because they absolutely have to,” expressed Harvey.

It’s a problem all along the Mother Road, from Chicago to Santa Monica, as more mom-and-pop shops feel the financial sting from COVID-19.

“This time of year we expect a lot of people overseas and they make up 70% of the people who travel Route 66, and each person that comes to the United States, and the domestic travelers, spend $3,626 per person, just for traveling. Last year, the estimated people traveling were 140 million travelers, and if you take that times the expense of the money that they spend on the road…it’s right around $50 billion,” explained Rod Hard, Director of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce.

Without the business it normally sees, the Boots Court was forced to lay off its employees and stall renovations, and even though Harvey has applied for small business loan assistance, the process is slow-going.

“We qualified and I know that the Small Business Administration checked my credit, so I know that they’re following up on it, but we haven’t heard anything about it,” said Harvey.

Trying to plan ahead in the midst of a pandemic is nearly impossible, and while it may take years for some businesses to recover, if they even can, Harsh says the Mother Road will remain forever.

“As soon as we can get the people to get their own problems taken care of in their countries, we’re hoping that they’ll be flying back to the United States,” said Harsh.

“Just gonna have to ride it out and hope for the best,” expressed Harvey.

Still, for Harvey, the uncertainty of not knowing when things will get back to normal hurts.

“It’s like not knowing when you’re going to get to see the rest of your family again.”

Another blow to the Boots Court is the cancellation of Marian Days. Rooms had been booked solid for the event, but will now sit vacant.

Precious Moments in Carthage is also temporarily closed due to COVID-19, though purchases can still be made online.

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