History Museum

The History Museum on Park Central Square houses various Southwest Missouri historical exhibits. The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Travel through Springfield has become non-existent due to the stay-at-home orders, causing businesses like hotels and museums to temporarily close.

COVID-19 has forced people to stay in their homes, meaning leisurely travel to sporting events or conventions, as well as business travel, has stopped.

Springfield hosts conventions and sporting events throughout the year, and the spring time proves to have more planned than other months.

“This is the busier time of the year, but it’s the slowest we’ve ever seen on record,” said Tracy Kimberlin, president and CEO of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The slower months for travel through the Springfield area are usually the winter months, but these past few weeks have broken that pattern.

While conventions and sporting events make up a considerable portion of tourism in Springfield, the amount of leisure and overnight travel through the city is much more significant.

Hotels in Springfield are down nearly 75% in revenue compared to this time last year, said Kimberlin.

Missouri has a stay-at-home order statewide until May 3, but social distancing guidelines may be in order past that date.

“As far as when the business will come back, a lot of that depends on the social distancing requirements that are likely going to be in place even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted,” Kimberlin said.

While it may take a while for leisurely travel to come back due to social distancing, Kimberlin said he expects business travel to come back a little quicker, because business travel can be done alone.

Social distancing guidelines set by the CDC recommend people stay six feet apart from each other and avoid large groups to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Because of social distancing guidelines and the closing of non-essential businesses, certain industries, like the museum industry, have struggled financially.

Kari Norris, vice president of marketing at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, said if COVID-19 never happened, they would have seen several hundred people over the last couple weeks.

Spring break is a busy season for businesses in Springfield, but since college students across America were sent home, they lost those customers.

The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is not the only museum closed. The Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium, Springfield Art Museum and the Springfield History Museum on Park Central Square have also closed their doors because of COVID-19.

If all goes as planned, those museums will open on May 3. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson could issue a later date, however, if social distancing has not proven to significantly decrease the spread of the virus.

The museums are hopeful that the date of May 3 will stay in place, because their business depends on their visitors.

“Travel through the Springfield area is the main ingredient to keeping a lot of businesses up and running, but since COVID-19 broke out, businesses all over have taken a hit,” Norris said.

Norris, like Kimberlin, has been working from home since the stay-at-home order was put in place.

While many professionals in the travel industry are able to work from home, a lot have either been furloughed or laid off. In fact, the unemployment rate in the United States is currently around 11%, with millions filing for unemployment each week.

Once the stay-at-home orders are lifted, it will still take a while for things to get back to normal.

“None of the group business is going to come back until the social distancing requirements are eased up considerably,” Kimberlin said. 

Kimberlin explained how he does not expect the travel industry in Springfield to be fully back to normal until the spring or summer of 2021.