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At a Time of No Travel, What Can Chambers and Visitors Bureaus Do Right Now?

Yesterday, W.A. Fisher hosted a conference call with several CVBs and Chamber directors we work with to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting tourism and what we can do right now to combat this new reality of staying put. It’s a difficult time for those of us in the tourism industry – as it is for many industries. We’re worried about jobs, we’re worried about our communities and we’re worried about the future. Everything we read, the outlook often seems grim.  

Finding Light through the Darkness

On the bright side, several CVB directors are shifting strategies right now to serve their communities first and stay relevant at a time of no travel and staying home. In the past, CVBs have been there to support our communities by attracting people to their towns, shops, restaurants, attractions, and hotel rooms. Now, they are uplifting our communities by delivering messages that encourage us to support our local businesses so they can thrive. It’s a crucial and timely role right now and CVBs have stepped up, shifted direction, and are helping where it matters most. 

Now is a Time to Celebrate Our Communities More Than Ever. 

Many CVBs and Chambers are providing community outreach to their local audiences and businesses. They’ve organized Facebook groups to share relevant news and information and to offer help and support. 

They’re posting messages on behalf of their stakeholders to help spread messages of strength and hope, using hashtags like #smalltownstrong and #hereforyou.  They’re sharing critical information about necessary steps to qualify for SBA loans. They’re creating videos as a reminder that we’re all in this together. 

For example, Experience Burnsville quickly implemented this messaging by updating its social platforms with a “Locally Strong. Supporting Our Community” cover photo and created shareable graphics that continue the positive message that “We have your back.” They quickly emailed local hospitality businesses to collect information via a landing page, so the CVB could keep information flowing about operation hours, online ordering, curbside pickup, and takeout. 

Below features some key messages on how to support your community during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

Lake County Chamber of Commerce and Visit Shakopee have also turned their attention to the community, promoting strength and support. Lake County created a locally-focused Facebook group to distribute critical information to local businesses, share ideas, and collaborate.

Advertising & Messaging: We Obviously Can’t Promote Travel, So What Can We Promote? 

Many CVBs have ceased their advertising for the time being. No ads should be running about upcoming events or social activities. CVBs can Instead, promote the future. Promote that when this pandemic lifts – and it will – we will be here for you and welcome you with open arms. Promote postponing instead of canceling. Promote the enjoyment of outdoor activities while practicing social distancing. Promote the creativity and innovation of your communities and how people are helping one another by offering services in need right now, such as how in Duluth, Vikre Distillery paused making gin and is distilling hand sanitizer and giving it away for free. Or how Frost River is now sewing masks instead of canvas bags.  Local coffee shops and restaurants are providing free coffee and food to healthcare workers. Look all around – people are behaving selflessly and banding together to demonstrate gratitude and love. This, we should celebrate. 

Although people can’t visit, these types of uplifting stories say a lot about your community and remind people that when it’s time, this is the type of community people will want to take their families on vacation. 

Shakopee remains hopeful that with their plethora of attractions, the summer season will still be strong and have shifted marketing dollars to promote their fall shoulder season.  Others are shifting budgets to the summer season.

Partner with Cities & Local Organizations

Some CVBs and Chambers have teamed up with the city government, downtown councils, and foundations to cross-promote messaging and help create a unified voice through social media, emails and other communications. They’re providing resources to local businesses, pointing them in the right direction for loans and other small business financial assistance. 

Remember, We’ll Get Through This

There’s no doubt that tourism will see a hit in months to come. There’s a lot of uncertainty and “Wait and See.” However, by shifting strategies and focusing on the good we can do right now, our communities won’t forget how you supported them, how you helped promote their businesses and how you did everything you could in a time of crisis. Stay positive. Share messages of hope. This is what’s important right now. 

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