DENVER (CBS4) – Visit Denver confirmed Wednesday that some conventions and meetings for the rest of the year have been canceled because of concerns related to the delta variant. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism will continue in 2022, according to the mayor, who projects in his new budget that the industry will still not return to 2019 levels.
“We have had a small percentage cancel, mainly attributed to projected lack of attendance due to delta variant fears and travel restrictions,” said Rachel Benedick, Visit Denver executive vice president of convention sales and services in a statement provided to CBS4. “We just had a very successful Brewers Association Convention last weekend with 7,200 attendees that helped push our hotel occupancies above 90%.”
Large events that take place in Colorado for local nonprofits are also starting to make similar decisions. The Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund Board announced on its website that the Heroes of Flight 93 Remembrance Gala scheduled for October has been postponed. The Global Down Syndrome Foundation announced earlier in the year it would remain virtual for its Be Beautiful Be Yourself fashion show in November for the second year.
“They’re doing the right thing for the right reasons. It’s a hard decision to tell all the people about this but they’re doing it right,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, the president and CEO of Global about the choice other organizations are making like her nonprofit. “I think for the people who are driven by the event, for the event, it’s a difficult decision for them.”
The pandemic has been especially tough on the community Global serves, adults 40 and older with Down syndrome are among the highest risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The organization also lost one of its ambassadors, DeOndra Dixon last year. Only 36 years old at the time, her passing highlights the disparity between African Americans and Caucasians with Down syndrome where their average life expectancy is 36 compared to 60.
Global has launched six projects related to the impact of the virus including helping families cover the cost of burials and supporting those with food insecurity. The nonprofit has also provided guidance on the delta variant, helped with booster shots, and schools safety related to COVID-19. The pandemic has pushed them away from traditional programs they provide for their community in order to focus on the coronavirus.
“This last 18 months have been really tough and for the community of people with Down syndrome we serve,” she told CBS4. “So we did lose a lot of people, a lot of adults with Down syndrome to COVID, so it was a very dark and tragic year.”
Last year they went virtual for the fashion show and found that they could get more celebrities to agree to participate remotely or in a taped segment. Singer Sara Bareilles will be part of the event this year. But Whitten explained that they cannot keep the same level of support when they are not in person. The organization is down 30% on its gross revenue not including this major fundraiser.
Sponsors are still asked to contribute the same but tickets are a fraction of the cost from $650 to $25 for the virtual experience. Their community has also scaled back both outdoor and indoor events happening this month because of the delta variant. Last year more people watched the event because it was virtual and less expensive, but they remain committed to returning in person. They made the initial payment to the hotel downtown for next year and 2023, hopeful the variant will be controlled and more children will get the vaccine.
“So we’re feeling pretty darn good about 2022,” Whitten said.