Tourism looks good for 2021 in the Ozarks

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 6:26 PM CDT
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TWIN BRIDGES, Mo. (KY3) - The North Fork of the White River was pretty quiet on Monday afternoon. Most of the canoeists, kayakers, and campers left after a very busy Memorial Day weekend.

Karen Smith, owner of the Twin Bridges resort, was a bit apprehensive as they went into their opening weekend of the season. She considers the weekend a big success.

“We were packed; we had a lot of campers, our cabins were full, and we had floaters, even on Friday when the weather wasn’t so great,” she said.

Tourism is Missouri’s second-largest source of revenue, after agriculture. But last year was a rough year, because of COVID-19.

“Oh, it killed us, absolutely killed us,” said Missouri State Representative Travis Smith, who serves on the State’s tourism committee. “It was down, 800 percent. Nobody wanted to get out; everybody wanted to stay home and be safe. So, this year, we’re going to see an influx like we’ve never seen before.”

Amy Lee was visiting from Biloxi, Mississippi, and rented a canoe to float the river. Her job in Biloxi prohibited her from traveling more than 50 miles from home in 2020. She’s thrilled to be able to travel this year.

“Oh my gosh, it’s great,” said Lee. “Especially going into a store and not having to wear your mask; to me it’s such a big deal, it’s so freeing.”

Just down the road from Twin Bridges, West Plains is also seeing an increase in tourist traffic.

“We’re seeing a lot of travelers now, mostly a lot of retired people are out and about now, and going to see family,” said Melissa Smith, Tourist Coordinator for the City of West Plains.

Smith said the visitor center has seen an increase in visitors the past couple of weeks, and hotel occupancy rates are on the upswing. She’s optimistic 2021 will be a great year for tourism in the Ozarks.

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