Q&A: What Ohio Travel Businesses Want To Know
Please continue to check back as this section will be frequently updated.
Q: If I mandate masks for customers, what will it do for my business?
A: The reality is, more and more travelers are expecting you to mandate masks for customers. Three different American traveler studies recently are consistent in showing the importance of mask mandates for doing business.
Longwoods International surveyed travelers July 17:
- 61% of American travelers prefer that destinations require masks
- More than half of those travelers (35% of total travelers surveyed) will ONLY visit a destination with mandatory mask policies
- 9% are less likely to visit if masks are mandated, and only 3% of these will refuse to visit destinations with mandatory mask policies
Destination Analysts released its study of American travelers the week of July 20:
- 67% of American travelers are happy when businesses and destinations mandate masks
- 23% are neutral
- Only 9.5% are unhappy or very unhappy. Among the 9.5% who aren’t pleased, only 5% said a mandatory mask policy would prevent them from visiting your business or organization.
Colleen Dillen/Know Your Bone research team surveyed those who visit attractions on June 29. When asked what would make them feel comfortable visiting museums, gardens, nature areas, mandatory face coverings rose from 54% of respondents to more than 70% in the last two weeks. The authors said, “research suggests that not requiring masks will have a greater negative impact on attendance than requiring them for a vast majority of organizations.” (Added July 21, 2020)
It's not just important to enforce mask mandates, it's just as important to show that are. American travelers have a positive opinion on masks being worn in travel advertisements. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of American travelers report feeling positive about ads featuring people with masks, while only 10% have a negative response. (SOURCE: Destination Analysts Oct. 12, 2020)
Q: What will be the economic impact? What should we expect?
A: More than a third of all jobs lost in Ohio are from the Travel and Hospitality economy. September 2020 Ohio Jobs and Family Services data indicates there are 131,000 fewer Ohioans employed by the leisure and hospitality industry. This represents more than a third of the nonagricultural job losses in the state. Overall, the industry is experiencing a 23% job loss. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation is down 23,900 jobs from this time last year or 29%, while Accommodations and Food Service is down 107,100 jobs representing 22% of this sector's workforce based on last year.
Tourism Economics tracking of weekly spending shows that Ohio has lost $10.8 billion thus far since March. After holding steady the two previous weeks, Ohio losses dipped 3% the week ending Oct. 10.
This loss in traveler spending is having a direct impact on federal, state and local tax revenues as well. A loss of $316 million in state sales tax receipts is caused by this traveler spending loss, as is $187 million in lost local sales tax receipts. Federal tax revenues are down $674 million due to the loss of Ohio travel.
As of April 15, Oxford Economics predicts a 45% decline in the travel industry for 2020 with losses the rest of the year reaching $519 billion. This is more than 9x the impact of 9/11 on travel sector revenue. A loss of 8 million jobs is anticipated, as well as a decline of $80 billion in tax revenues. The greatest losses are anticipated in food service, lodging and air transportation; however, all sectors (including recreation and retail) should anticipate losses. As predicted when travel restrictions loosened, travel revenues slowly improved, but we are likely to experience losses the rest of the year. Please recognize these are national figures at this point, and that different markets and different types of travel experiences may witness faster recovery. Strategic promotion will be a key factor in reducing the losses. Access the full report - COVID-19 Economic Impact to Travel Economy . (Updated 20/22/2020)
Q. Do you have any insight on group tours?
Travelers surveyed by MMGY in September were least likely to cancel group tour packages (39%) than any other form of travel, with 40% saying they postponed group tours and 21% saying they were planning to take their group travel trip as planned.
Based on Midwest Living’s recent research, interest in curated tours has grown 477%. Those who curate tours – such as tour operators – are trusted resources in a time when consumer caution is high. Tour operators should continue to position themselves as reliable travel partners who ensure that travelers are experiencing the best of destinations and that each stop along the way has their safety top-of-mind. Consideration should be given to developing itineraries incorporating changing consumer desires – patriotic, small towns, unique small business shopping, outdoor experiences, multigenerational, meeting artisans, etc.
The Ohio Travel Association has facilitated two virtual group tour discussions with tour operators and suppliers throughout the midwest. Among the many findings was the opportunity to leverage the unique selling proposition of group travel as a trusted and safe way to travel - this was the opinion pre-COVID, so certainly tour operators and those hosting them during a trip should ensure that safety plans are in place and reinforce the fact that taking care of customers is your #1 concern.
Tour operators and group experiences should also look to the growing use of communications platforms, such as Zoom, to provide added value to group travelers. One operator is using Zoom calls to enrich future group experiences by offering a preview of what to expect, to provide a "trivia experience" to keep people excited, and by inviting guests to talk about a destination's culture or story.
Q. When can meetings go above 300? Or is it 10? And do I have to serve a meal?
The Ohio Travel Association and the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association are working hard with the Governor's office to develop guidelines for meetings and conferences. We believe hotels and meeting venues should have the same opportunity to conduct business as restaurants, who are able to determine capacity based on ability to physical distance.
The Entertainment Public Health Order limits gatherings to 300 and does not mandate banquet services. The mass gathering of 10 persons established by the Governor is not the limit to meetings - it is the number of folks who can be gathered within a business. The best example is that restaurants cannot take reservations for more than 10 persons, but they can certainly serve more than that number. Group tours, as an example, of more than 10 persons would have to be divided into groups of 10 or less for meals or tours.
Q. If you are retail and a family group comes into your store, they are obviously not social distancing. Are we required to police them to be 6 feet apart?
“Policing” is going to be tough whether your guests are part of a family pod or not. Instead of thinking about how to correct behaviors, think instead about how to set up physical environments where compliance with the physical distancing comes more naturally.
Examples include spacing seating arrangements 6-feet apart, including benches; putting signs near the seating reminding customers to sit only with their groups; communicating the expectations of physical distancing prior to their arrival (through ticketing confirmation, as an example) and throughout your business through signs and broadcast means; higher barriers between booth spacings or seat every-other-booth; seating every other ride seat; floor signage spaced 6-feet apart to ensure those at a counter space or in front of an exhibit are adequately spaced, etc. (Updated 6/26/2020)
Q. What about gloves. I hear nothing about using or finding them. Are they necessary?
COVID-19 protocols do not mandate gloves for the work environments opening in May. If you were required to wear gloves based on other health standards pre-COVID-19 (such as food service), these mandates should continue to be followed. (Updated 6/26/2020)
Q. With all the loss of income already, how are small businesses to afford all of this?
These are tough times for sure, and our hearts go out to all the businesses right now. Many of the changes a business is required or advised to implement, however, cost very little money. Face coverings could be those employees bring from home or made from inexpensive materials (health-grade masks should be preserved for our front-line health care providers.). In fact, we know of at least one major Ohio attraction that is allowing its employees to use their own masks because they will be more apt to wear them consistently. Physical distancing barriers, etc. could be creatively developed with materials already on-hand, and floor signage could be done with tape and signage.
We suggest businesses looking for supplies work with other nearby businesses to buy bulk and to develop new relationships. For example, maybe a local construction company would be willing to ‘loan’ you hand-washing stations? Reach out to your existing suppliers with a list of your needs and see if they can help.
Also, an Ohio manufacturing coalition has developed a martketplace for some of the materials you are likely to need. (Updated 6/26/2020)
Q. How do we handle customers that are not masked or don’t comply with the physical distancing policies?
First, make sure you establish policies for what you will require and for noncompliance. As face coverings are not mandatory for customers, each business should establish its policies on whether or not to require (the Governor is highly recommending this be put into place.) Create some scenarios for your employees on what to do should customer noncompliance be an issue based on your policies.
We need to understand that this is new for everyone. We can learn from other businesses even outside our industry. Some businesses are refusing entry, while others are offering face coverings at entry for purchase for $1. Still others have chosen to rely on voluntary compliance. Remember that there is a list of exclusions for face coverings in Ohio, so not every customer/employee will be able to wear a face covering.
Second, communicate your face covering requirement if established. One attraction sends requirements for face coverings and physical distancing along with ticket purchase confirmation. Put the requirements on your website. Post signs outside the entrance and throughout your business if needed as reminders. (Updated 6/26/2020)
Q. So many medical experts keep saying the cotton homemade masks give you 2% protection. Love to see the governor address the effectiveness of each type mask.
The Governor has spoken about how layering the tools together is most effective. Tools we can use include face coverings, cleanings, physical distancing, etc. He has also said repeatedly that face coverings protect others. Pay attention to the fact that he no longer says “masks,” and instead says “face coverings.” Here’s what the CDC says about homemade masks. The New York Times just published a lengthy article about face coverings. Toward the end of the article information is provided about efficacy of different types. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. How can we best support each other now and through re-opening?
Talk to one another! Share what you are doing, and learn from others. Practice kindness. We are all navigating these new waters together. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q: How do I promote online sales?
A; TourismOhio, working closely with the Governor’s office, has launched a campaign aimed at helping businesses promote online sales. Support Local Ohio features a new website with links to restaurants offering carryout and delivery, online retailers and virtual experiences. To participate, businesses must create a listing. Companies with existing Ohio. Find it Here. listings can log back into their account and update them anytime.
As you promote your sales on social media, be sure to add the following tags: #OhioFindItHere, #InThisTogetherOhio and #SupportLocalOhio. (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
Q: What about J-1 Workers? Will they be available?
A: Probably not. More than 3,330 international students help keep Ohio businesses open every summer through the J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor programs. The U.S. Department of State suspended all exchange programs for 60 days effective March 11. President Trump then shuttered the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program in an immigration-related executive order earlier this summer. At this point, it is unclear what may happen with the summer program. The Ohio Travel Association keeps in touch with the Alliance for International Exchange and will update you as new information is available. (Updated 7/21/2020)
Q: We are developing all kinds of new online content, from virtual visits to storytimes, streaming concerts and theatre to DIY craft videos. How can we leverage what we have done with TourismOhio?
A: We are #InThisTogetherOhio! Recognizing this, TourismOhio has a new online presence highlighting Let’s Get Digital experiences. This is a great platform for sharing what you have created. To submit your content for consideration, contact is Dayna.Brownfield@Development.Ohio.gov.
Don’t forget to leverage your messaging on social media when you post this content by adding #OhioFindItHere, #InThisTogetherOhio and #SupportLocalOhio.
Q: Whom do I contact in government to ensure my voice is heard on how this is impacting my business?
A: Such a great question! Your story is powerful and needs to be heard now and in the future. So many times lawmakers minimize the impact of travel to the economy, but no longer. We are witnessing first hand why your business and travel are vital. So here are a couple things you should do right now!
Keep your federal and Ohio lawmakers informed about what is happening to you, your business and your employees. We’ve provided links below in case you don’t know who your elected representatives are. OTA has a whole library of tips for communicating with elected officials.
Use the power of social media. Elected officials are also on social media. Tag them when you speak about the power of travel and what is happening.
What should you say? Speak from your heart and give them facts. Talk not only about what has happened thus far; try to forecast your losses if this continues another two months. Talk about lost business revenue, lost jobs and wages that your employees used to support families, losses to your suppliers. This last one is often forgotten. We need decision makers to understand that Ohio travel businesses spend $9 billion each year on goods and services to run their businesses. These accountants, insurance agencies, office supply companies, wholesalers, etc. are part of the travel food chain and will suffer as well.
Q: What is OTA doing to help?
A: In addition to making sure federal lawmakers heard what you need loud and clear in the immediate future, OTA is pursuing recovery measures and developing some recommendations to send to the governor. Every day, we are talking to our members who have called us seeking help and ideas. We are also keeping you informed to the very best of our ability, and we are researching best practices for the best messages and best practices so our industry is ready when the situation changes.
As a member supporting the work of OTA, your support enables us to:
- Advocate relief for our businesses and organizations, such as liability protection, expansion of relief packages and programs to stimulate future travel and meetings/conventions.
- Raise awareness of the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on the Ohio travel economy, our businesses and our employees.
- Expand and clarify existing state reopening guidelines when appropriate.
- Provide timely communications about issues that impact our members and the Ohio travel economy, including new research, funding opportunities and marketing tactics
- Educate and inform through free webinars, weekly enewsletters, an in-depth travel marketing webinar series with community chats to discuss individual challenges, and the upcoming Spirit of Ohio Travel virtual learning opportunity
- Offer problem-solving services like personal assistance, facilitation of discussions with key officials and businesses facing similar challenges, and innovation labs such as StudioHTS that are continuing to provide support for shared travel experiences
To read the latest OTA happenings, visit here. (Updated 7/21/2020)