Downtown businesses are launching number- or appointment-based reservation systems to gain control of the city’s chaotic tourism draw during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early indications suggest this past Columbus Day weekend was as busy as the same weekend last year.
That means the season has far exceeded officials’ earlier guesses on visitor turnout, which hasn’t slowed despite still-raging COVID-19 crisis. It’s also sparked other fears, including what appears to be large gatherings of people waiting in lines outside businesses on the pedestrian mall.
“There isn’t a whole lot to do in Salem, so unless (visitors) already have tickets and reservations for something, it looked like people were just lining up for something to do,” said Denise Kent, owner of Wicked Good Books downtown. “By taking reservations, it allows us to ask about their COVID status. It allows us to get their phone numbers (for contact tracing). It allows us to set expectations before they ever get to the door, that they need to wear a surgical mask that we’ll provide.”