SONOMA (KPIX) — As the pandemic appears to wind down as vaccinated numbers rise, many are expecting a surge of travel from the long-quarantined masses. A lot of people, however, may want to keep those travel plans closer to home for any number of reasons. For Bay Area destinations like Western Sonoma County, staying close to home could mean a significant rebound in 2021.
“We have a lot of people who are celebrating birthdays that already happened,” says Suzanne Sostak, co-owner of Mine + Farm Inn. “Friends that they want to see again, Family that they haven’t seen in a year.”READ MORE: Atmospheric River: PG&E Crews Respond to Widespread Bay Area Outages
Business has been picking up for Sostak and her husband. It started about three weeks ago, and now it stretches out across the calendar.
“People thinking, ‘hey, I can start to think about August, September, July,’ and they’re starting to book,” says Bryce Skolfield. “Before, people were really thinking on a week-to-week basis.”
“People who are vaccinated now are starting to travel, and those who are getting vaccinated or booking travel into the future,” says Todd O’Leary with Sonoma County Tourism. “So we are very optimistic about the return of travel here to Sonoma County.”
It could be a wonderful equation for a regional travel destination like the Russian River; untold amounts of pent-up travel demand, plus the lingering complexities and cost of traveling long-distance.READ MORE: Atmospheric River Whipped Winds Roar Through Bay Area; Toppling Dozens Of Drought-Weakened Trees
“You don’t have to get on a plane, or drive really far,” says Michael Volpatt, owner of Big Bottom Market. “You’re staying kind of within your bubble.”
Business owners like Volpatt say they are already seeing more traffic downtown. And as landmark spots reopen, no one is talking about the tourist vs. local safety tensions that surfaced when the town opened briefly last summer.
“These are the people we live for but we really don’t want you here right now,” says Ben Tacla, manager at Rainbow Cattle Co., recalling the frustrations from 2020. “Now it’s ‘welcome back everyone.’ Soon enough. Not in mass droves right now, but soon enough.”
And that feeling that the crowds are coming back – soon enough – is building a lot of confidence for a strong 2021.
“I think so,” says Sostak. “I think we’re feeling cautiously optimistic.”MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Atmospheric River Crashes Onshore; Driving Rains, Gusty Winds, Flash Flood Fears
“It practically brings tears to my eyes saying it, because it’s been such a stressful year and we’ve all felt it,” Volpatt says. “Now, I think a little optimism is what everybody needs.”