Story Corps

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"Sonoma County is roaring back after the COVID-19 closures without question," said Sonoma County Tourism CEO Claudia Vecchio.

Vecchio said last year travel to the county was down by 50 percent because of the pandemic. And the hospitality industry was down 70 percent at the peak of the shutdown.

"It was a dismal, dismal summer a dismal year for our businesses," Vecchio said.

 But this year, with the majority of COVID restrictions gone, visitors, and especially younger ones, are coming back to the county--which presents it's own problems.

 "The drought is an issue," vecchio said. "Some of the irresponsible behavior that travelers are doing when they are out at particular places, that's a concern."

 Vecchio spends a lot of her time working with county agencies to get messages across to visitors about water use, and wildfires.

 "Visitors don't know what to do or where to go and this is all new to them when they get caught in a fire," Vecchio said.

 And local business groups are doing this work too, like the Russian River Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. Executive Director Karin Moss said visitors, especially day trippers, have been up since last summer but nothing has seemed "normal" for a while.

"We were coming out of a difficult time anyways, with fires, floods, power outages, and the the pandemic," Moss said. "It's been the perfect storm of things."

While some summer events like the Cloverdale Friday Night Live and Valley of the Moon Music Festival will be in person again this summer, Moss said many big events in her region are being pushed to the fall because of one or all of the emergencies.

"I don't think anyone excepts to go back to the normal that we used to experience, I think we are all tentative," Moss said.


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