FILE - Virus Outbreak Missouri Tourism

In this Tuesday, April 7, 2020 photo, a parking lot sits empty in Kimmswick, Mo. The tiny town along the banks of the Mississippi River, normally bustling with out-of-town visitors this time of year, is virtually empty as the economic ravages of the coronavirus has shuttered shops and restaurants in the community. 

(The Center Square) – The head of the Missouri Travel Alliance said COVID-19 vaccinations and pent-up demand will spur a revival of tourism in the state this year, which has already seen improving tourist visit numbers amid the pandemic.

“We believe tourism will make an incredible comeback this summer. With the increased number of vaccinations and pent-up demand, we are optimistic that 2021 will be a great beginning to a comeback for tourism,” said Cori Day, executive director of the Missouri Travel Alliance.

The Missouri Travel Alliance is a grassroots partnership working to advocate on behalf of Missouri’s travel industry. The group was founded in 1962 to serve the travel industry, making it the state’s oldest grassroots travel organization.

She said the industry group would love to see state residents and people from surrounding states to explore Missouri.

“Although people may not be ready to board a plane, they can get in their car and drive to one of many locations in Missouri and have a variety of experiences and most importantly have fun,” Day said.

The state’s tourism industry was devastated by the pandemic, she said.

“It was a complete shutdown at one point in 2020, but we are a resilient industry and we will support one another and make an incredible comeback,” Day said.

Many signs of improvement are evident. Destinations and hotels in Missouri are beginning to see an increase in inquiries for prospective stays by visitors.

“Individual leisure travelers are ready to travel and we're seeing that in destinations throughout Missouri,” Day said.

Lodging revenue in Missouri was down by $1.1 billion since March 2020, the Missouri Division of Tourism said in its January Travel Barometer report. Travel spending declined by $6.6 billion since that month when compared to the same time period in the previous year.

An increase was seen with visitors to Missouri State Parks in 2020, with a 14.4% increase. In 2020 the parks had 21.2 million visitors, compared to the number in 2019 that reached just under 18.5 million visitors.