COVID-19 has had a big impact a lot of businesses around the country and here in Yakima. Perhaps one of the hardest hit was the leisure and hospitality industry. John Cooper, President and CEO of Yakima Tourism says restaurants and hotels had a lot of job losses in fact he says 2, 400 jobs were lost in the valley because of the pandemic in the industry. Many lost jobs others lost entire businesses. However things are beginning to return to normal now that Yakima County is in Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan. Cooper says he expects a busy summer tourism season with many people already planning travel for the upcoming months. He says a majority of people are still skeptical to fly so driving vacations will be popular this summer. That's good news for the Yakima Valley says Cooper. He says many people plan stops in the valley on their way to other larger destinations. Area wineries and breweries are ready for the increase in business and so are small businesses and restaurants. The Department of labor national jobs report says almost four in 10 of all lost jobs since February of last year were in the leisure and hospitality industry. The report says that's three times the amount of job losses other industries saw during the pandemic.
Cooper however says he's excited about business coming back along with large conventions.
He says constructions is close to being finished on an 18,000 square foot expansion of the Yakima Convention Center which will be able to welcome groups later this summer.

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