Home News and Features Where Have All The Buses Gone?

Where Have All The Buses Gone?

With the number of positive COVID 19 tests and hospitalizations on the rise, both across the country and here in Vermont, the return of motorcoach tours, which evaporated during the fall, remains a major question.

Tour Stops Evaporate

Along with the State House and the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry, the Morse Farm Sugarworks is one of the Central Vermont attractions frequently visited by motorcoach tours. When a record number of preseason reservations were abruptly cancelled during the first wave of the pandemic, Burr Morse’s appreciation of loyal, local customers was underscored.

Visitor traffic appears to have increased to the highest level since March during the foliage season, but the absence of motorcoaches accounts for a loss of many traditional fall tourists. Courtesy graph.
“We have been so supported by the community,” Morse said, reflecting on the summer and fall. “People have made a point of stopping — and not just for cremees.  For customer convenience we’ve increased the quantity of staples at the store — like milk, butter, and eggs — in addition to the regular seasonal fruits and vegetables.”

Locals and past customers have also been supportive by ordering syrup and gift boxes online, Morse said. Over the years the visitors who have enjoyed sugar-on-snow with a motorcoach group have become a reliable customer base for online sales.

The Lodging Perspective

The Capitol Plaza Hotel, which during most years hosts a score of tour buses during the foliage season, confronted cancellations across the board this year, said Fred Bashara. Cancellations began with the first onslaught of the coronavirus in March.  

During the lockdown, with no guests allowed, the hotel decided to move quickly to implement improvements to the property required to qualify as a Tapestry Collection by Hilton hotel, Bashara explained.

“We went ahead with completing most of the renovations Hilton required by summer, and reopened in June,” Bashara said. “Normally, the project would have been spread out over three years.” The updates included repainting and wallpapering all 74 hotel rooms and public spaces. All of the hotel’s furnishings had been updated during the previous year.

Over the summer, the hotel’s restaurant, J. Morgan’s Steakhouse, was the first in Montpelier to set up spacious, outdoor seating on State Street. Anticipating the return of the cooler weather of late autumn and the cold of winter, extensive redesign of the former meeting room space behind the existing restaurant area now provides a considerable amount of physically distanced dining capacity in the J. Morgan’s Garden. In the front area of the restaurant, the required physical distancing is accomplished by closing off every other booth near the bar and reducing the number of tables in the adjacent area closer to the hotel lobby.