Q&A: What Ohio Travel Businesses Want To Know
Please continue to check back as this section will be frequently updated.
Q: What will be the economic impact? What should we expect?
A: US Travel reports 86% less travel spending in Ohio as of 4/30. This is a $524 million loss. As a result, state tax returns from travel businesses to-date are down $15 million, local tax returns are down $9 million and federal tax returns are down $33 million.
As of April 15, Oxford Economics predicts a 45% decline in the travel industry for 2020. This includes a 81% drop in revenue over the next two months and continued 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. Should travel restrictions loosen in the next two months, they anticipate travel revenues will slowly improve, 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 after the next two months. Access the full report - COVID-19 Economic Impact to Travel Economy . (Updated 4/30/2020)
Q. Do you have any insight on group tours?
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.
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. (Posted 5/18/2020)
Q. What is the timeline for opening and for guidelines for festivals, concerts, sporting events and attractions?
We don’t know about timeline for opening. It will depend on how this first round of openings impacts the key COVID-19 metrics in place by the Ohio Department of Health. Guidelines for other types of businesses are currently being developed and several taskforces have been formed to review guidelines for attractions, outdoor recreation and others. The questions and concerns OTA is hearing through our many industry (and through those we are doing for CVB partners) webinars and business discussions are being shared. (Updated 5/06/2020)
Q. Any word about if wineries will be grouped with restaurants?
This question could apply to breweries and distilleries as well. According to the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, Ohio Grape Industries and the Ohio Wine Producers, none have received word on this. Ohio Grape Industries says tasting rooms of these businesses will follow restaurant protocols, while production side of these businesses will follow manufacturing guidelines already released. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. Visitors centers are general offices. Are we able to be open?
Instead of asking “Are we able to open?” you need to ask yourself “Should we open?” or “Why would we open?” Remember that your top priority should be keeping you employees, guests and suppliers safe. The governor has clearly stated that those who can work remotely should continue to do so, and he has sent emails to state employees notifying them that teleworking will continue until further notice. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. Can I operate small group city walking tours if social distancing measures are taken?
Contact your local health department if there is any confusion on whether or not your business qualifies for re-opening in May. Mass gatherings of 10 or more are still going to be prohibited in the May 1 order. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. What about summer camps? Can we open if we limit to 10 kids and require masks and distancing? When will we know?
Currently, residential and day camps are specifically identified in the list of business closures. The Ohio Campground Owners Association has submitted public health protocols to the Lt. Governor’s office, so we hope campgrounds/camp guidelines will be available soon. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. What if we share a common entry and restroom? What would you suggest on creating shared space plans - rely on property management or make your own plan or combination?
I would talk to your property management about their plans for creating policies and procedures first. If they don’t have plans, can you help them? If their plans aren’t as strict as you’d like them to be, you need to do what you can to protect your employees, guests and suppliers. (Answered 4/30/2020)
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. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. What about gloves. I hear nothing about using or finding them. Are they necessary?
COVID-19 protocols discussed as of 4/29/2020 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. (Answered 4/30/2020)
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. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. What is the status of leisure travel? Hotels and lodging are open to "essential travel" but never has leisure been specifically addressed by Governor or the Ohio Department of Health.
We believe the language in the upcoming order on May 1 will be important for understanding. Leisure travel is a term common with our industry but isn’t everyday verbiage, so we don’t anticipate that much specificity.
What we do know is that mass gatherings of 10 or more are going to be prohibited and that employers are being told to keep employees working at home as much as possible. Based on these requirements, we believe it’s pretty clear that unnecessary travel is still discouraged. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. How will the State of Ohio communicate with people coming in from other states? They may not be prepared to cover their faces when they arrive.
Ohio may be #InThisTogetherOhio, but it is also #InThisTogetherWorld. All across the globe – including our surrounding states – facial covering policies are in various points of development. New York has made them mandatory. Ohio is not mandating face coverings for customers. If your business is requiring face coverings, you must communicate this with your guests. Customers don’t book or buy tickets from ohio.org. TourismOhio sends these leads to individual businesses. (Answered 4/30/2020)
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 retail 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 as they reopen. Some retailers 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 we know is going to send 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. Costco announced 4/29 that its locations will be requiring face covering for its customers. This is how they are communicating. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. Any new procedures for hotels, such as breakfast rules, or not offering free breakfast for the next few months. What about cleaning?
Our friends at the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association are sharing these recommended protocols from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Look at the May 1 order to see if new requirements will be identified for essential businesses. Also, look at the three sets of guidelines already released. For example, cafeteria buffets are banned and the use of disposable tableware is required in general office requirements. Although not specific to hotels, this might be indicative of what’s coming. Until specific guidelines are released, however, we do not know. Again, look at the guidelines for general office environments to provide some specific guidance for that side of your business. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. What square footage requirement will there be with regard to number of people allowed in a small space?
Based on the guidelines just released for office environments, manufacturing, construction, retails, etc., the capacity requirement is not based on square footage but on 50% of fire code capacity. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. When these new orders are enacted, will those businesses open today as essential be required to have all employees in face coverings? Currently this is not a requirement.
Yes (Answered 4/30/2020)
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. What will businesses be required to provide versus what we expect guests to do/have upon entry?
Based on what we’ve heard about the orders being submitted the first week of May, this decision is up to individual businesses. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. Are there things that Ohio can do together so that expectations are similar from visiting one place to another?
The first set of guidelines developed by the state set requirements for businesses and are pretty consistent – physical distancing, cleaning, limiting to 50% capacity, mandatory face covering for employees, and good hygiene. Future guidelines on other types of businesses are being developed and will provide further guidance. Customer policies for face coverings is really one of the key differences customers may encounter place-to-place, and the Governor has already changed that from a requirement to a recommendation. (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 we go about Ohio reopening, but keeping Ohioans safe when our surrounding states aren't opened?
The Governor has stated that states are talking to one another. Other states are at various stages of reopening. (Answered 4/30/2020)
Q. How will attractions with audiences be able to present live performances? Based on the president’s opening guidelines, I don’t see this happening till way after phase three. Am I understanding this expectation correctly?
Please understand the uncertainty and the fact that the State of Ohio (although considering these federal guidelines) is developing its own reopening strategy. Also understand that theatres are ‘mass gatherings’ or ‘large venues’ (using the terms of the federal guidelines). It is likely that reopening will come first to those with strict physical distancing policies in place based on limiting capacity and spacing of seating, as well as other required protocols. (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 has suspended all exchange programs for 60 days effective March 11. 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. (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
Q: How should we respond to the media?
A: Now more than ever, speak from your heart. Here’s a look at OTA’s overall statement, along with some basic messages you may want to convey. Feel free to adapt to your business.
Talk about the value of travel to society, and how just because you can’t visit us, that doesn’t mean we aren’t hard at work
Travel is in our human DNA. Whether we are exploring our own community or someplace a few states away, we travel to reconnect with each other and ourselves. Even though our attractions, museums, breweries, wineries, restaurants, retailers, etc. may not be open for exploration, many employees at these businesses are hard at work behind the scenes.
Speak about how your business and others in your community are adapting
They’re repurposing to provide needed supplies for this unprecedented health crisis, such as hand sanitizers, and converting guest rooms to hospital rooms. They’re creating lesson plans for teachers and parents who are educating our youth. They’re developing virtual tours and other ways to give us all a much-needed reprieve from today’s news. They’re providing carryout and delivery, and they’re selling passes and certificates to get you excited about future adventures.
Demonstrate the immense power of travel, including how travel supports jobs
The travel economy has been hit hard, but it will rebound, and it will be a vital part of economic recovery. Nine percent of Ohio’s workforce depends on travel, and travelers spend approximately $46 billion when they visit Ohio communities.
Show how travel benefits nearly all other industries in the State of Ohio, generates revenue for public services through tax dollars and supports families
It’s not just the travel businesses who are at risk right now, however. It’s the accountants, office supply companies, manufacturers, agricultural producers, engineers, media outlets and dozens of other suppliers that do business with travel businesses that are also impacted. It’s the local, state and federal tax dollars that are lost - revenue that’s needed to fund teachers and schools, fire and police protection, roads and other public services. It’s the loss of personal income for many of our 429,000 Ohio workers, income that supports families.
Talk about what you are doing right now to speed economic recovery tomorrow
We shall get through this by working together, creating new ways to experience Ohio’s stories and places, and inspiring each other and our guests. Yes, many of us are still working, doing what we can to book future business and readying ourselves for the days ahead when our work today will speed recovery tomorrow.
Safety is our primary concern right now
But right now, we are hunkered down as we all should be doing, protecting the health of our employees, neighbors and visitors. We miss you and can’t wait to see you again soon. (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
Q: As a business or organization that is completely or partially at a standstill, what should we be saying now on social media, through email or elsewhere?
A: Can you build and maintain relationships with your customers from afar? Sure, but it will not look the same. Now more than ever, your customers’ needs and problems have to be front and center.
Remember, we are not talking about messages to encourage visitation; we are talking about messages that show your customers you genuinely care about them and that you will be here for them when this is over.
Even if you are offering online sales, be sensitive to your message. Understand that you must show these offerings as a way to meet people’s needs - source of food, relieve boredom, etc.
Social media usage has increased more than 60% as more people are at home. Mobile usage seems to be decreasing. Some of the fastest growing platforms right now include WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook. Some online platforms are providing user tips during this time, including Pinterest, LinkedIn and FaceBook
As you reboot your communications strategy, here are a few thoughts:
- Your core messaging tactics should remain largely the same - how do you address what your customers need? How do you help them resolve a problem? Now is not the time to put your needs over your customers. And, as we are all going through this together, you have a pretty good idea of what customers need right now - hope, connectivity, peace of mind, etc.
- Praise everything that is being done to help your community members. Food banks, acts of generosity, gratitude to those on the front-line right now, etc.
- If you are offering online merchandise, gift cards, carryout, etc., thank all those who support your business.
- Focus on reinforcing the relationship you have with your guests. Let them know you miss them and will be there for them when this is over. This is a great time to identify and refine your emotional connection with your guests.
- As you are able, focus on one-on-one communications channels.
Q: What are some ways to preserve cash flow right now?
A: Cash is king right now, as you need to cover essential costs during a time when there may be little or no income coming into your accounts. For DMOs, it’s the uncertainty of not knowing the amount of your next lodging tax deposit.
Contact your business financial adviser for advice. Work with your treasurer and accountant. There are options for deferring some payroll taxes and other measures that they are going to be able to walk you through.
You need to forecast out until at least June 1. How can you make changes now that will keep you solvent until then? Better yet, forecast out till the end of the year, recognizing your revenues are going to look quite different than your original budget. The key is to be flexible and tenacious about keeping an eye on financials.
Look at your fixed and variable monthly expenses. This isn’t about referring to your budget; run a General Ledger from 2019 and look at every line item. Are there some expenses that aren’t necessary right now? In particular, look at your monthly credit card charges, such as software apps, etc. You might be able to stop a few of these. Although small amounts, they could add up at the end.
Understand the difference between accrual and cash budgets. Accrual budgets recognize income and expenses when they are invoiced or billed, while cash budgets are recorded when money is exchanged and offer a better idea of what you have on-hand. Just because you invoice a customer doesn’t mean you have that money available right now to pay expenses.
Speak to your vendors about stretching payment terms.
Talk to your bank about working with you to defer loan or mortgage payments. Talk to your landlord about options for rent deferral. Remember, changes to how financial institutions are handling this crisis are just now being developed, so they may not have the regulations in place just yet, so keep any options open for as long as you can. As an example, banks are being asked to offer 90-day deferrals of principles and interest by extending any agreement to the end of an agreement, not by amortizing through the life of any loan. Most banks don’t have that in place yet.
Apply for a SBA Loan if you are a for-profit or 501 ( c ) 3 organization. With the passing of the CAREs Act, other emergency relief programs are coming, and we will make sure you know about how to access them as soon as they are in place.
Talk to your bank about extending your line of credit. You can do this now as a safeguard, recognizing that repayment is only necessary if you draw upon that account.
Look for areas of duplicity and reach out to similar organizations for cost-share measures
Defer health insurance premiums. All health insurers are required to provide the option of deferring premium payments, interest free, for up to 60 calendar days from each original premium due date. This means that employers can defer their premium payments up to two months, giving them some relief on costs, while keeping their employees insured.
Defer Ohio’s Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Premiums. To help businesses facing difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio BWC is announcing the deferment of insurance premium installment payments for March, April and May until June 1, 2020.
The following internet providers have taken a “Keep America Connected” pledge to help small businesses through this time by not terminating service for inability to pay, waiving late fees, and opening WiFi Hot Spots as needed. Contact your local internet provider if it is on this list for specific details: Arcadia, AT&T, Bresco Broadband, Cable One, CenturyLink, Charter Communications (Spectrum), Cincinnati Bell, Continental, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Frontier, Little Miami, Mediacom, Oakwood, Ohio Rural Broadband Association, Ohio Telcom Association, Sprint, TMobile, TracFone Wireless, US Cellular, Van Lue, Verizon, and Windstream.
SharedWork Ohio allows workers to remain employed and employers to retain trained staff during times of reduced business activity. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services provides eligible individuals an unemployment insurance benefit proportionate to their reduced hours.
Q: If my business is still open, do I have to do anything special?
A: If you are open for business, you must comply with the new order being released May 1 that includes mandatory face coverings for employees. If you are not open right now, please understand that we are going to have to conform to these regulations when we reopen, as social distancing will be required even when business restrictions are lifted. Don't wait until then to think about how you are going to do these things. The current order requires the following:
- Designate six-foot distances. Designating with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance;
- Hand sanitizers and sanitizing products. Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
- Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations. Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
- Online and remote access. Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.
If you are still open as an essential business, you must be able to present a document with your rationale. The governor has stated that businesses identifying themselves as essential should develop a letter demonstrating how you are an essential business as defined in the Stay At Home Order and how you are complying with the safety mandates as described in the order, particularly #18. This applies to hotels, ferryboats, restaurants doing delivery and pickup, etc.
Q: How do I manage remote employees?
A: We are all in the same boat when it comes to managing employees when they are working from home. Even if you have had some remote workers prior to COVID-19, shifting all or a larger percentage of your workers to remote work can be a challenge. Here are some tips from some of your colleagues in the Ohio travel industry.
- Trust your team. Nobody planned for this to happen, so you must work with your employees to make remote work as productive and efficient as possible.
- Be flexible. Remember, some employees are also juggling home-schooling at the same time. Can you loosen up 9 to 5 expectations and re-focus on daily or weekly accomplishments?
- Make it a priority to video call or at least talk over the phone often, especially when providing feedback or discussing a problem. It is very easy to misinterpret someone’s tone or attitude over text; so avoid these problems entirely by picking up the phone!
- Don’t micromanage, but set expectations. This way, your employees know what they need to get done on a daily basis, but don’t feel like you don’t trust them. It will also give you ease of mind knowing that work is getting done.
- Keeping your online calendars up-to-date is even more important now. You won’t be able to walk to the next office to see if someone is available, so these calendars are important for knowing when your employees are on calls.
- Remember that your employees are also stressed, and like you, they may feel isolated. Assign a staff member to be in charge of activities. Create some “fun” times as well, such as Zoom happy hours, Netflix watch parties of documentaries or shows that are relevant to the tasks at hand, or challenges to compete in engaging online content, such as participation in the Getty Museum’s “pose like a painting with your household objects.”
- Consider trying out new online tools. Video-conferencing software like Zoom or Google Hangouts can be useful for that face-to-face time. You can also use a content-management system such as Basecamp to stay organized and keep everyone in the loop.
- Finally, show you care. Everyone is going through a tough time. Sometimes, just checking in and asking how your employees are doing can really boost attitudes. (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
Q: What are tips to stay productive when working from home?
- Have a designated space where you work. Even if you don’t have an office, set up your computer at a desk or table somewhere that you can stay focused. Lounging around in bed or on your couch can make you feel sluggish.
- Work near a window so you can get some natural light. Natural light can help you feel refreshed and energized. When the weather gets nicer, maybe set up your laptop at a table outside to get some fresh air and sunlight to help you recharge.
- Stick to a schedule. It doesn’t have to be the same schedule you may have had when you went to your physical workplace, but keeping a set schedule will make it easier to separate work-life and home-life. (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
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: When will this be over?
A: Please understand that no one has an answer to this question at this time. Governor Mike DeWine has said that we should anticipate this 'new normal' for 12 to 18 months. Recognize that there is still uncertainty as to when restrictions will be lifted based on the ability to control spread of virus infections. As we predicted, new guidelines and permissions to open will be in phases. (Updated 4/30/2020)
Q: How do I know if I need to close my business?
A: As of the week of March 23, the governor has ordered all non-essential businesses to close. The governor’s order specifically mandates that the following close: amusement parks, amusement rides, carnivals, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children’s play areas, playgrounds, fun plexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls and country clubs. In-person restaurant dining was prohibited in an earlier order. Campgrounds, cottages and cabins should be closed except for residential users.
He indicates in the latest order that if your business is not listed above, this doesn’t mean you aren’t included in this mandate. Common sense must prevail, and we recommend that you read the entire order. Restaurants providing delivery or carryout can continue operations, as may hotels and motels, but all must comply with physical distancing and cleaning requirements.
The governor has issued a “stay at home” order, so Ohioans are not permitted to travel except for health and safety, necessary supplies, outdoor activities, and certain kinds of work to take care of others. Most states in our market area have also issued similar orders to shelter in place as of March 25.
If you have any questions, please call your local public health department for a determination.
Q: Can I run to the office to pick up mail and supplies?
A: The governor’s order permits travel to maintain minimum business operations. This includes being able to travel to maintain the value of your business inventory, preserve the condition of your physical plant and equipment, ensure safety, process payroll and employee benefits, and to facilitate your employees working from home. Check with your business leadership before assuming you can run into the office, as this order maintains that only minimum travel for these should be done. Physical distancing must be used. Again, we recommend you read the entire order.
Q: Our shows are all canceled or postponed until mid-May. Any ideas of how we get income into our theatre in the meantime?
A: Be super creative on what you can offer online. The State of Ohio is launching a #InThisTogetherOhio and will be encouraging people to support local businesses through online purchasing. Could you stream a single live performer or musician and request donations? Could you live auction old props or costumes that are gathering dust? Could you sell gift certificates for future performances? Could you make an additional plea to your donors by adding additional incentives to be delivered at a later time? (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
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!
One, share your story on a new platform. If you check the box allowing us to share your story, this will be important for ensuring federal, state and local lawmakers know what is happening at home with their constituents and with their districts' economies.
Second, immediately reach out to both federal and Ohio lawmakers to tell them 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.
Third, 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: How should we plan for marketing after this is over?
A: Oh, if only we had all the answers. We asked a group of industry marketing experts their opinions, and the Ohio Travel Association considered what we understand about how people may behave or travel after disasters or being cooped up for a few months, and came up with this list of ideas to think about as we start planning for when restrictions are lifted:
- We predict the lifting of restrictions will be gradual. Some public health experts recommend lifting restrictions for a few weeks, then enacting them again, as this virus may ebb and surge for a while. We may see certain business sectors open up one at a time, such as restaurants. So have a plan for what to do if this is the case.
- Use your E-marketing leads. Speak to these interested guests directly and thank them for being supporters. Offer deals and discounts for them specifically. These cost you very little, but since they are already familiar with your brand, they will be more likely to take advantage and plan a visit, than targeting new visitors.
- People may be more willing to travel shorter distances at first, so think carefully about tightening your geographic market; focus on a 2-hour drive distance.
- Travelers may seek experiences that seem spacious and open-aired. This means looking at the images and videos you are sharing. Instead of showing a crowded midway or street festival, perhaps show something a little more intimate, such as two or three people enjoying your experience. We predict many may be a little more sensitive to crowds for awhile when this is over.
- Expand your focus on user-generated content. What better way to demonstrate that you are open and ready for guests.
- It is likely that outdoor recreation opportunities will be sought-after. Some people may not be able to take that expensive out-of-state vacation this year or next; so, what opportunities can you offer them? Ohio offers experiences that are close, affordable and fun.
- Finally, carefully craft your message to not sound too pushy or ‘sales-like’. This is the perfect time to appeal to emotions, including pride in our country, the love of family and friends, etc.
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.
We have provided four complimentary webinars to industry partners with essential information, and we are helping businesses understand safety protocols and how to develop individual plans. These are just a sample of what we have been doing to keep us all #tourismstrong. (Reviewed 4/30/2020)
Q: What low-interest loans are currently available for the travel industry?
A: We have put together a solid list of potential funding options for you, and we are updating almost daily.
Q: What are some tips on respecting physical distancing at parks?
A: These tips were provided by our friends at ODNR. First, don’t use parks or trails if you are exhibiting symptoms. Be prepared for limited access to restroom facilities and drinking water. All state parks and many county and local parks have closed buildings and playgrounds to keep park users safe. Follow the physical distancing requirement of 6-feet at all times. If you are using a trail, sound a bell or signal way before you are within 6-feet to warn another trail user that you are approaching. Give others as much space as possible. Consider going to a park less traveled if you suspect there is going to be a crowd.
Q: Regarding Ohio Travel Association educational workshops, how will that be handled? Will they move forward on a case to case basis depending on time frame?
A: The Ohio Travel Association’s purpose of conducting workshops is to help you gain the skills and knowledge most needed in an ever-changing world. So we will absolutely be here for you in a time when you need us the most. We are still working on details, but we’ll probably offer a mix of online trainings soon. Like you, we are treading new waters here, but please know we are already talking with content experts and looking at options. In the meantime, we are updating our COVID-19 website daily with new information, resources and FAQs.