Dubuque starts seeing tourism, travel comeback a year into the pandemic - KCRG

Dubuque starts seeing tourism, travel comeback a year into the pandemic - KCRG

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) – Dubuque is starting to see tourism perk up for the first time in more than a year, which is a welcome chance for business owners during the long pandemic.

Sue Davis has had her bookstore, River Lights, in downtown Dubuque for 14 years. Every year she welcomes hundreds of tourists. Last year, though, was a big exception.

“We were closed for a while and, when we reopened, it was just for short hours, and we were doing online sales and curbside pickup,” Davis said.

That is something Davis said does not really work for tourists.

“They want to browse and they want to visit and want to see what Dubuque was about through what our best sellers are and what our book groups are reading,” Davis said.

And, as Keith Rahe, the president and CEO of Travel Dubuque, explained, it was not just Davis who felt the impact of the pandemic.

“The tourism industry was devastated by the pandemic, in all honesty,” Rahe said. ”In our industry, you need to have the ability to travel and to gather and, with the pandemic, that just did not happen.”

One of the city’s biggest attractions, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, was closed for ten weeks when the pandemic first hit. The Grand Harbor Resort had to lay off most of its employees. And, American Airlines canceled all flights in and out of Dubuque for three months.

However, as Rahe said, the city is starting to see the light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.

“We are very much a destination for people, families over Spring Break and, typically we do very well with that, so we did see that this year,” Rahe said. “We saw guests coming, staying in our hotels, going to the National Mississippi River Museum, just kind of a vibrancy around the area that we have not seen in well over 14 months.”

Rahe said the influx of tourists could be due to people feeling more comfortable with traveling now and with an increase in vaccine availability. American Airlines reported 321 more passengers flew through the Dubuque Regional Airport in March when compared to February. The airport director told KCRG-TV9 they are expecting a significant increase in April as the airline added an additional daily flight.

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