Catalina Island business owners hopeful as visitors start returning to tourist spot

AVALON, Calif. (KABC) -- Catalina Island is one of the few places in Southern California where you have to hop on a boat to get there, but that isn't stopping visitors from returning now that it has reopened for business.

The island's economy relies largely on tourism and with declining coronavirus cases across the region, businesses there are hoping that leads to an increase in visitors.

Restaurants and stores are still only allowed to operate at 25% capacity, but those restrictions are not getting in the way of visitors.

"It's just really nice to be here, even amidst the pandemic, we're getting away and enjoying the sunshine," said Samantha Tuten.

Hotel stays are only about 50% of normal, but business owners are hoping things improve.

"Some of the landlords have been good and given a little bit of a break to help make it by but it's definitely a drain and we're definitely in the negative we're looking forward to a lot of the visitors this weekend and hopefully a lot more in the future," said Jerry Dunn.

The Catalina Island Conservancy says Jeep tours last weekend sold out, but Tim Kielpinski says all the tour vehicles are sanitized after each use and everybody stays masked.

While the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health dashboard indicates there have been only 14 COVID-19 cases in the city of Avalon since the pandemic began. But people who live there do have concerns.

"We really appreciate when tourists wear their masks and practice social distancing. For the most part, a lot of them do but some of them don't," said Lindsay Mattingly.

"The more tourists we have, the more dangerous it is," added Ellen Bay.

Though there are obviously still risks, the fact that tourists are returning to the island have some hoping it's a sign life is beginning to return to normal.

"It's a godsend," said Jim Luttjohann with LoveCatalina.com. "We've been very near the end of many peoples' ropes, so we're so excited to see the public coming back."
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