Branson expects smaller turnout for Christmas tourism, businesses stay hopeful

After a tough summer for tourism, some businesses are expecting to bring some holiday cheer to the guests and local economy.
Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 4:19 PM CST
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BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - The Christmas season is in full swing in Branson. After a tough summer for tourism, some businesses are expecting to bring some holiday cheer to the guests and local economy.

“We always have hope in Christmas, for sure,” Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Interim President Jonas Arjes said.

For many locals and visitors in Branson, Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the.

“We’ve been celebrating Ozark Mountain Christmas for over 30 years,” Arjes said. “People are accustomed to putting on the lights and the displays. We have over 1,100 trees.”

However, Arjes says this holiday season won’t be typical for tourism.

“During a normal Christmas season, we’d see probably around two million visitors. We know that’s not going to be the case this year, but we are going to do everything we can to get as many people here safely as we possibly can,” Arjes said.

Data from January to September shows Branson tourism tax is down more than 35 percent. The good news is, that’s been getting better.

“The trend line has been improving each month. So, if you go back to April and May when you were looking at 70 and 80 percent down, those were scary numbers,” Arjes said.

Now, with two months left in the year, many business owners are hoping for a stronger ending compared to the start.

“There’s truly a hope that Christmas could be a good season for Branson still,” The Tracks Family Fun Parks Owner Craig Westcott said.

Westcott is boosting his business' holiday happenings with something brand new: ice skating.

“We just feel like it’s the perfect thing for Branson. [It is] the perfect thing for it being the Christmas town that it is,” Westcott said.

With extra safety measures still in place, Westcott and other business owners are doing their best to make this season is merry and bright.

“The theaters are doing a good job with safety measures. We are full of outdoor activities here,” Westcott said. “Things that make Branson Christmas, they still are here and we are just trying to enhance that this year.”

Some of the shows in Branson have chosen not to do their Christmas performances, but most of them are doing their Christmas specials. The audience is seated with space between parties and masks are required anywhere social distancing is not possible.

The Holidays on Ice Skating will open on Saturday, November 14. However, Wednesday, November 18 is the official grand opening event. It begins at 5 p.m. Santa will be arriving on a helicopter.

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