FREDERICKSBURG — Wine bottles are stacked, monarch butterflies are flitting and thousands of brilliant red poppies pepper the horizon like a Monet painting come to life.


On a typical April afternoon at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, 3,000 visitors would stroll the well-pruned grounds of this working wildflower farm, which has long been a must-stop destination for families and wildflower-peepers making their annual spring trek to the rainbow-hued Hill Country.


But not this year. As the entire country shelters in place, rites of passage have paused and popular tourist destinations have found themselves suddenly all dressed up with no one to show.


"We’re just kind of walking around saying, ‘This is April? We’re closed?’ I’ve never seen it like this," said Wildseed Farms founder and owner John R. Thomas. "It’s kind of lonely, isn’t it?"


"We’re all quarantining and pausing," replied Wildseed Farms General Manager Jamie Martin, "and the wildflowers didn’t get the memo."


RELATED: Look but don’t touch: Tips for enjoying wildflower sites


The coronavirus pandemic is already having a significant impact on the travel and tourism industry, with recent estimates from the U.S. Travel Association projecting nationwide travel industry losses of 34% for the year, including a 78% decline in March and April travel. In Texas, that could translate to a potential economic loss of $57.2 billion over the course of the year and affect more than 250,000 travel-industry jobs, according to information provided by Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.


While no place is immune to the economic impact of the pandemic, some small Texas towns dependent on income from one or two specific annual events to get them through the year financially are poised to be hit particularly hard.


"Some events are like Christmas to retailers. A substantial portion of the year’s revenues may come from one or two big drivers, and there will not be an opportunity to make up the shortfall later in the year," said Paul Vaughn, senior vice president of Source Strategies, a consulting firm that tracks the Texas hospitality industry.


"Many of these small-town lodging properties will be devastated," he said. "Many do not have high profit margins, and without governmental assistance will be forced to lay off employees, close and/or default on loans."


The travel and tourism industry in 2018 had an economic impact of $164 billion in Texas and supported more than 1.2 million jobs, according to data provided by the governor’s office. In addition to in-state travelers, Texas saw an estimated 72.5 million out-of-state visitors in 2018.


"Along with the entire travel industry across the world, Fredericksburg and Gillespie County are experiencing unprecedented negative impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Ernie Loeffler, president and CEO of the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau. "At this time, the focus is to ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe,’ and slow the spread of this devastating virus."


Round Top, a town of 90 residents an hour and 15 minutes east of Austin that’s drenched in bluebonnets this time of year, was scheduled to host its annual Spring Antique Week from March 30 to April 4. Instead of brimming with thousands of visitors from around the world, as it typically would be in early April, "It’s a ghost town right now," said Amie Sikes, who, along with her sister, Jolie, owns the popular Junk Gypsy boutique and hosted the HGTV show of the same name. "It’s so strange, because all the tents are up. You drive past and there’s just all these empty tents."


Sikes said before Spring Antique Week’s cancellation, Junk Gypsy had agreed to host a women’s travel group with 100 vintage campers on the property. The sisters’ adjacent hotel, the Wander Inn, was sold out and they expected the boutique to be so crowded, it would be a "mosh pit."


"It’s such a huge economic hit, of course. In this community, the main income is from that show twice a year," she said, adding that the show was canceled during the second week of March. "That’s been really stressful, but our very first concern was keeping our families, our staff and our employees safe. We’ll figure out the money part later. It was important for us to go with what our gut was telling us — and thank God we did, because canceling as early as we did ended up saving people a lot of money."


J.B. Royer, owner of Royers Round Top Café, a down-home spot famous nationally for its pies, said income from event typically accounts for 20% of the café’s annual sales.


"Man, talk about brutal. It’s a swift kick in the booty," Royer said. "It was so eerie leaving here at 8:30 last night and there’s nobody in town."


Royer said that in addition to offering drive-thru services, the restaurant has been offering cooking classes via Facebook Live and "quarantine boxes" filled with items such as milk, eggs, and yes, toilet paper.


"We’re trying to stay creative and innovative, but not having Antique Week is going to hurt. But we’ll be OK, and we’ll make sure we take care of our staff," Royer said. "A lot of days I’m tired and I’m trying to figure out, man, is it worth it? But it’s absolutely worth it if we can bring a little bit of comfort."


According to the Dripping Springs Visitors Bureau, the city, which lies on the outskirts of Austin and in 2015 was officially designated the "Wedding Capital of Texas" by the Texas House, has been "crushed by the COVID-19 virus."


"Couples planning their upcoming spring nuptials have postponed or canceled their weddings, leaving vendors scrambling to reschedule during what typically is one of the busiest times of the year," the bureau said in an announcement. Dripping Springs typically hosts 90 weddings a weekend in the spring.


"The pandemic is having a devastating impact on the wedding and event communities in Hays County. With the cancellation of all public gatherings with very little notice, hundreds of clients’ events have been disrupted or postponed," said Kim Hanks, Dripping Springs Visitors Bureau board member and CEO and co-founder of Whim Hospitality. "We’ve laid off more than 150 employees. We are very anxious to bring them back to work and return to the normal, crazy life we live in the hospitality industry every day."


Jon Hockenyos, president of Austin economic consulting firm TXP Inc., said a potential silver lining for small towns is that they may be the first places to gain tourists once it’s again safe to travel.


"We do kind of think small-town-Texas tourism may be one of the first markets to come back, in that people can drive to it, it’s not going to necessarily be dense, and you don’t have to stay in a hotel," Hockenyos said. "People may think, ‘We were going to go to Europe. We can’t do that, but we can get in the car and drive a few hours and get a change of scenery.’"


Junk Gypsy’s Sikes said she’s optimistic that travelers will again be on the highway, pointing their cars toward little Round Top, in the near future.


"Once it’s all said and done, we’ll still be here," Sikes said. "We’re taking huge steps right now to take care of our employees and make sure that everybody can weather this storm. Everybody’s in the same boat."


For Thomas, who has dedicated his life to farming wildflowers and expanding Wildseed Farms, which includes a wine bar, biergarten and sprawling gift shop curated by his wife, Marilyn, creating a haven for customers is the most important part of what he does. Over the years, he’s had more than a dozen families request to have their loved ones’ ashes spread among the flower fields.


"We say sure, no problem," he said. "That’s a testament to how people love this place. People want to be a part of it."


General manager Martin called a trip to Wildseed Farms "a magical experience."


"I can’t tell you how many times you turn around and John and Marilyn are just smiling watching everyone enjoy it," she said. "That’s really what we’re all probably the most sad about."


Thomas said he hasn’t laid anyone off as a result of the coronavirus and that he’s looking forward to a time when the farm is bustling again.


"We’re all in this together," he said. "We want to do our part to knock this virus out. Hopefully everybody will hold their head up and this will soon be over and we’ll be back to normal."


Tracking the spread of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and worldwide