South Bend Regional Chamber President talks tourism, small business closures

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Businesses are continuing to either close down or struggling to stay open. If this continues, we are looking at a lot more empty buildings.

There is hope that coronavirus concerns will pass but Jeff Rea the President and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber said that any loss of customers even for a short period of time can be detrimental to businesses big or small.

“Some of those that were struggling anyway, this may be the decision they make to not continue to operate. Some are going to decide to retire, some are going to decide to work for somebody else. A lot of different reasons that somebody will decide not to be in business anymore but some will just have a hard time making it,” Rea said. “So I think you’ll see really all of that happening and likely at the end of this you’ll see fewer restaurants, fewer hotels.”

The chamber has several resources on its site for businesses that have questions regarding closure rules or what to do if they are struggling to keep open.

Right now, there are options for short term loans, in the coming days, we should be hearing from the Indiana Governor regarding a disaster loan program.

“There definitely has to be some assistance from outside, whether the state of Indiana or the government help. That’s going to be critical especially the longer it goes. Because it’s just hard for them to sustain on their own,” Rea said.

With closures or limitations put on businesses and events, tourism all over our nation is taking a major hit.

There are fewer people out on the streets, airline tickets are low because no one is flying and that all impacts tourism and our local economy.

“I would say it’s the hardest hit of the industries,” Rea said. “People are just not traveling like they used to. Obviously, the spring semester we have sports going on here, parents coming, just different kinds of travel coming and going. Tremendous impact.”

With fewer people leaving their homes, tourism is impacted directly. Even with schools out of session, spring break vacations are also put on hold.

Everything is similarly on stand-still until the pandemic calms down. For the South Bend region, where sports and other events are canceled, businesses are already seeing the effects of coronavirus legislation.

“It’s probably too early to tell. We’d say it’s significant and our hotel partners will say it’s significant already. It’s caused them to have to think about ‘how do we get through this?’ when you think about a hockey tournament that has 1,000 room nights with it and all of a sudden you can’t host that – that’s a lot of rooms to fill,” Rea said.

Now there is hope that our community can be rebuilt after this all, Rae said that attractions like Notre Dame are anchors in a community and can help bring people coming back in the long term.

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