These Big Bend Tourism Destinations are Slowly Reopening

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Big Bend and other Texas tourism destinations are gradually reopening after Gov. Abbott lifted quarantine restrictions in May. Some destinations are more optimistic than others about how fast their recovery will be.

Restaurants that made successful transitions to take-out and delivery service wondered if it was profitable to open dining areas with only 25% capacity. Some of their customers were concerned about how to handle the new social distancing rules, and how to eat or drink while wearing a face mask.

We queried several of our favorite travel destinations, starting with the Big Bend area in far west Texas. Bill C. Ivey, President of Brewster County Tourism Council and owner of Holiday Hotel in Terlingua, sent a response.

Strange Time for Big Bend

These Big Bend Tourism Destinations are Slowly Reopening

Photo: Holt

“It has been a strange time in the Big Bend. All three counties (Brewster, Presidio, and Jeff Davis) mandated that the hotels, R.V. parks, and campgrounds close. These three counties combined are larger in size than the States of Vermont or New Jersey. To rub salt in the wound, the Superintendent of Big Bend closed the roads leading into the National Park. The entire region became one big Ghost Town,” Ivey said.

Big Bend National Park reported over 155,000 visitors in the first quarter of 2020, mostly from February 15-March 15. Not one case of Coronavirus was confirmed until a few days ago, making it obvious it wasn’t spread by visitors to the area.

Ivey said, “The National Guard did extensive testing in the Tri-County Region last week-end and rumor has it that it resulted in one positive result. Again, one case in an area 10 times the size of Rhode Island.”

Missing Spring Season

These Big Bend Tourism Destinations are Slowly Reopening

Photo: Holt

After Governor Abbot’s proclamation, the Brewster County Judge opted to open businesses at 25% occupancy (even though counties with five or fewer cases could re-open at 50%) since the judge wanted to wait for National Guard test results.

“Big Bend National Park has yet to reopen, so, this area remains pretty much vacant without visitors,” Ivey said. “We would all be happy to get back 25% of our customers.”

Hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments are all reopening, he said, with many offering discounted rates and adjusted hours of operation.

“The Big Bend has experienced a beautiful Spring Season with no one to witness it. We are gradually moving into our Summer Season which is typically a slow time for the Big Bend,” Ivey said. “Only time will tell the effects of the Coronavirus to Big Bend and the rest of the world. At least the local residents got to enjoy this incredibly awe-inspiring region of Texas at a time that we would normally be too busy to experience it.”