PROVIDENCE – Mask mandates have been lifted and business restrictions are a thing of the past. However, even as the weather warms up, Rhode Island’s hospitality and tourism industry is still battling the pandemic.
On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Dale Venturini, CEO and President of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, and Kristen Adamo, CEO and President of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked about staffing issues in restaurants and hotels, inflation, workers. non-return to office and a lack of federal funding for restaurants have all contributed to the ongoing problems faced by small businesses in Rhode Island.
“I don’t like playing ping pong, but that’s all I’ve been playing for the last few months,” Venturini said, advocating that restaurants get more federal dollars. “Before, some things that cost a lot were just the cost of doing business because things were going well. Today we treat nickels like manhole covers…Today we have to account for every penny.”
Venturini said inflation is hurting many independent restaurant owners. For example, she said that eggs have risen in price by 80 percent. “But you can’t raise prices by 80%,” she said.
In terms of tourism, Adamo said Providence has returned about 87 percent of its business meetings and conferences since 2019, which has been slower than the return of tourists.
Adamo ran into marketing problems in downtown Providence due to high-profile crime last summer, such as rowdy ATV racers and gun violence. But this year, with more people downtown and the return of events like WaterFire, travelers and locals are returning, she said. “It all brings the city center to life,” she said.
“I’m confident that by the end of the summer we will really be back to 2019 levels,” Adamo said, explaining that Providence has to compete with bigger cities like Boston and New York. “Business travel will always be a challenge… Also, Zoom is growing in popularity. So we have to make sure that people come here.”
Find out more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts and other podcast platforms, or listen in the player above.
Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.