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88 Counties in 88 Days: COVID-19 puts a damper on tourism season for Ottawa County

Ottawa County is known for tourism. It's a huge part of everyday life and business. Catawba Island's success is tied to Put-in-Bay tourism. This year, it was slow.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Ohio — This content is part of our 88 Counties in 88 Days coverage, which focuses on the current issues Ohioans are facing in this election year. 

The heart of Ottawa County is tourism. The area thrives off the appeal of Lake Erie's shoes and islands. 

Catawba Island is, despite the name, not one of those islands. It's a tight-knit community at the very tip of a peninsula that juts into Lake Erie. 

It's a gateway to tourist destinations; a short stop before a longer stay just a ferry ride away at nearby Put-in-Bay.

"11 million people visit this region every year, so tourism and travel is huge in this region. And again, we need it for not only the businesses that are here, but the residents."

Credit: WTOL

The Catawba Inn is hard to miss, with three things offered inside that are promised loud and clear outside: food, beer and an ATM.

"We’re on the tip of Catawba Island. We are located by the Miller Ferry that takes you to Put-in-Bay."

Credit: WTOL

"On a day like today - a beautiful, sunny, perfect day like today - we’d have about 200 to 300 people midweek. As you can see down there, there’s 30 people wanting to go on a boat. 40 maybe. And we’ve taken a hit – no doubt about it. This is the slowest summer I’ve seen in 30 years."

Credit: WTOL

"We’ve got to get this COVID behind us and now that you go to Put-in-Bay, everybody’s crowded on top of each other. That’s what it’s all about over there, you go over there and socialize and have a good time. There’s a lot of restaurants and bars that are struggling and I feel for them."

Credit: WTOL

"Since our business is connected to Put-in-Bay, when they are down, we are down in business. There’s usually big crowds, you can barely get down these roads usually in the summer. Now, it’s one person at a time that might stop here. The business just is not the same over there, so it’s not the same here. This is a small town community, so we all kind of, when the tourists are here, relying on each other. So everybody’s down."

Credit: WTOL

"I’m 65 I don’t want to catch this, I’ve got a 92-year-old mother, I don’t want her to catch it. I think if people are careful and reasonable as we’re going to be getting through this safe and sound for the most part."

Credit: WTOL

"We’re worried everyday but we’re just taking it day-by-day, because we don’t know where the future’s going to take us. With profits being down... We only make money so many months out of the year. With profits being down, how’s winter going to be, how can we get through it... It’s day-by-day, for sure."

Credit: WTOL

"Stock market came back, I think Put-in-bay can come back. We have weather like this next year and the pandemic has faded into the background I think we’ll have another booming, beautiful year on Put-in-Bay."

Credit: WTOL

RELATED: As tourism season winds down, Put-in-Bay businesses struggle through pandemic