There are almost no big events in the building, and it’s not clear when they’ll return
ST. LOUIS — Make no mistake: The pandemic has devastated tourism — and, by extension, Explore St. Louis.
The operator of the downtown St. Louis convention complex, America’s Center, has now laid off the equivalent of 50 full-time employees. It still has about 25 on furlough. Everyone else is working a reduced schedule, taking one unpaid day a week, its leader said.
There are almost no big events in the building, and it’s not clear when they’ll return.
President Kitty Ratcliffe said some event organizers would like to come, but Explore must help craft operating plans, which then must be approved by the city of St. Louis’ Health Department.
“We’ve got events on the books, for the end of this year, and into early 2021,” she said, including Gateway Dirt Nationals, a stock car event. “The question is whether the health director of going to provide approval for experience plans,” similar to those already OK’d for hotels and other businesses.
One thing Explore can point to in those plans — and pitches to potential customers — is a new certification obtained through the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association trade group. It’s called STAR Facility Accreditation, indicating a recipient has established and maintained a cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program, among other things.
In one change, made possible through nearly $2 million in state of Missouri tourism grants, the facility’s doors along Washington Avenue had their handles removed. That money also went toward a campaign targeting road-trip visitors. Explore is also pursuing the possibility of more bank loans to aid with large fixed costs like insurance and utilities.
The certification will “help us to put more business back into the facility more quickly,” Ratcliffe said.
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