New Hampshire’s tourism industry still seeing a shortage of PPE

Shipment delays, supply difficulties hit lodging facilities, attractions hard
Charyl Reardon

One of the causes of the PPE shortages is ‘because so many businesses are purchasing from the same limited number of suppliers,’ says Charyl Reardon of White Mountains Attractions.

Hoping to head to the White Mountains to do some hiking and sightseeing or other tourist activities this summer? Maybe stay a few days, too?

New Hampshire attractions and lodging locations are doing everything possible to ensure proper safety measures against the coronavirus, even though many locations have experienced a shortage and delay in receiving personal protective equipment, or PPE.

The tourism industry received the OK to reopen in late May after being closed since the middle of March from the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though the extra months they were closed may seem like they had a chance to collect the PPE that they need, months later, products like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are still on back order, said Christopher Bellis, owner of the Cranmore Inn in North Conway.

“Initially, getting PPE was impossible,” Bellis said, and that resulted in him having to get creative with supplies. He ordered hand sanitizer from an alcohol company that turned vodka into hand disinfectant. When disinfecting wipes came back in stock, he had to stock up and even then, it took two to three weeks to deliver.

“We bought gloves for kitchen work, and I had to go through three different suppliers,” he said. “Then I didn’t receive them for seven days. I called the supplier again, and they said that they were out. I called asking where they were, and they said that they don’t have any and that they were going to ship them once they had them. I had to cancel three more orders [of gloves] until I could finally get them.”

When Bellis finally received them, he said, three different glove sizes came on three different dates.

‘A rainy day’

The stay-at-home guidelines ordered by Gov. Chris Sununu say that lodging facilities in the state can accept overnight reservations from New England residents but must follow the strict cleaning guidelines to ensure proper safety measures.

Day trips to New Hampshire have been more common because of the coronavirus, said Bellis. But because of the uncertainty with reservations and what the rest of the summer will look like in terms of the state’s Covid-19 levels, it’s difficult to plan for the amount of PPE needed when shipment is out of stock or takes weeks to receive.

“I’ve planned for a rainy day, assuming this is the rainy day that I’ve planned for,” Bellis, a self-described “planner,” said.

He has spent $2,000 in the past couple of months on PPE. “At this moment, you can plan to a degree. Additional reservations come at the last minute, or you don’t get as many [reservations] as you expected, or the weather is bad.”

The attraction side of the tourism industry has also been hit hard with the shortage and long wait times to order PPE.

Charyl Reardon, president of the White Mountains Attraction Association, said that if her members are lucky enough to order products from their supplier, it still takes up to two weeks to arrive; before the coronavirus, it would take two to three days.

“There is a concern that with all the added sanitation measures put into place to keep our guests and employees safe, and as we begin to see more guests into our businesses because capacity levels are becoming more flexible, the attraction and tourism industry is going to be faced with the lack of availability of these products because so many businesses are purchasing from the same limited number of suppliers,” Reardon said.

More help needed

In May, New Hampshire received a shipment of 17 million facial masks and 50,000 medical gowns, WMUR-TV recently reported. Most of the equipment, however, went to hospital and long-term care facilities. Bellis of the Cranmore Inn said that he did receive a shipment of masks from the state, but only because the Inn opened prior to June 1.

“While New Hampshire has had great success in procuring PPE, such as face masks, face shields gowns and gloves, quickly obtaining sanitation supplies remains a challenge across the globe,” said Jake Leon, director of communication for the Department of Health and Human Services. “The Department of Business and Economic Affairs is actively soliciting companies that produce these supplies to meet the significant demand.”

As of June 7, the state had received $400,000 from the federal CARES Act for PPE. But since then, businesses like lodging facilities and attractions have still had issues with obtaining the equipment.

Facial coverings are being sold at liquor stores across New Hampshire, but Reardon said she wishes the state would also offer significant amounts of PPE and sanitation products for the tourism businesses to purchase for their own use. They are able to safely stock and operate the attractions with the amount of PPE that they have, but it’s unknown how long if the shortages continue, she said.

“It would ultimately be helpful if the federal government or the state provided businesses with tax credits for their expenditures for items like sanitation products, protective equipment and employee training which have enabled each of us to safely reopen and ultimately stay open,” Reardon added.

This article is being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

Categories: News, Retail & Tourism
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