Coronavirus

CORBIN -- In a special called meeting on Wednesday, the Corbin Tourism and Convention board voted to suspend the city's restaurant and transient taxes. This followed Corbin City's Commission's vote on Tuesday to suspend the city's alcohol and regulatory fees.

With officials around the country calling for citizens to practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many local industries are taking a hit and having to adapt. Corbin Tourism Director Maggy Kriebel says Corbin, like many of the country's cities, are experiencing the effects of the pandemic.

"It has completely shut us down," Kriebel said. "We have to be very careful. We've kind of changed the things that we are promoting."

For example, Kriebel says instead of promoting specific events, tourism is promoting other activities that people can do safely during this time. One such activity is visiting Cumberland Falls, says Kriebel.

"[That] kind of helps get people outside and not feel like they have to be shut in, and then that helps with the anxiety and all of the other stuff people are dealing with."

Currently, Kriebel says she is reaching out to local restaurants to see what services they are offering. She created a post on Facebook highlighting which restaurants are offering take out, curbside, and delivery services. She also included local shopping destinations, as well. The information was published on Corbin's Tourism's Facebook page.

Kriebel says the city's hotels have also taken a hit during this time.

"Our hotels are either empty or people are canceling their reservations left and right. That's a huge detriment. We're all in the same boat, everybody in the tourism and travel industry is in the same boat right now. Nobody has people in their hotels."

Kriebel spoke about events like the NCAA tournament being canceled and other events being postponed and their effects on larger cities.

"Cities count on things like their massive events and sporting events and festivals, attractions, and things like that. Right now, where everything is completely shut down, nobody's traveling, people are social distancing."

In an analysis titled "The Economic Impact of the Coronavirus Due to Travel Loss" by Oxford Economics with its Tourism Economics subsidiary, the analysis group predicts a 31% decline for the travel industry this year. This figure includes a 75% drop in revenue over the next two months and continued losses over the rest of the year reaching $355 billion.

Oxford Economics' analysis predicts a decline of $55 billion in taxes, with a cumulative GDP impact of $450 billion this year. The analysis also predicts that the US economy will enter a protracted recession based on the expected downturn in travel alone.

Oxford Economics says it predicts a projected 4.6 million jobs will be lost as a result of travel declines. They expect the unemployment rate to rise to 6.3% over the next few months.

Locally, Corbin has seen its restaurants and bars shut their doors to dine-in customers under the Governor's orders. As a result, Kriebel has had to postpone the upcoming, first ever Restaurant Week in Corbin.

"It was an extremely difficult call," she said. "On the one hand, you're trying to drive people into the restaurants, but on the other hand, restaurants being shut down, you can't really do that."

Kriebel says the three-course meals being offered for Restaurant Week weren't designed to be takeout. Kriebel hasn't announced when Restaurant Week will now take place, as no one is certain when restaurants will be allowed to open their doors to patrons again.

The Tourism Commission is scheduled to meet at least once a month to continue to monitor the situation.

For now, Kriebel says that the tourism commission is promoting and assisting local businesses to help businesses owners during this trying time.

"All we can do is to continue to promote shop local. Continue to order takeout or delivery from your local restaurants, continue to patronize your boutiques, continue to support local businesses. That's really the only option we've got," she said, adding, "From our tourism family, we wish everybody well, stay safe out there."

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