Hospitality industry taking a hit on graduation weekend
COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri is expecting more than 6,000 students to graduate this upcoming weekend, but this year, things are looking a little different for the city of Columbia.
With a virtual commencement ceremony, the city is expecting less visitors than normal.
Matt McCormick, president of Columbia's Chamber of Commerce, said this time of year is normally very special for Columbia.
"Under normal circumstances, we normally look forward to this time of year," McCormick said. "We always look forward to the commencements and watching all of our students as they celebrate."
Outside of the university, some businesses are taking a hit. The hospitality industry in Columbia normally relies on this weekend to bring in more business.
Heather Hargrove, general manager at Stoney Creek Hotel in Columbia, said this weekend is more than just the hotel industry.
“University of Missouri graduation is one of the biggest of the year, and that goes without saying, that is for our whole town, not just for the hotel industry,” Hargrove said. “Our business turned upside down over night. Travel pretty much went to a halt, because companies put restrictions on and others aren’t traveling, period.”
They've had to furlough 32 of their employees and now they rely on a small crew to help the customers they currently have.
“It’s all gone, in one fell swoop, we lost one of the biggest weekends of the year,” she said.
McCormick said they are unsure what the exact economic impact will, be but they are hopeful for recovery.
“Of course the hope and what we work for is that the impact not to last really long," he said. "Hopefully it is just a one year impact, a one year time frame. We would love to see and support our students back here next fall."
MU invited all May graduates back to campus for an in-person commencement event at a later date.