For almost all of us, this pandemic sucks. It sucks on a personal level. It sucks on a professional level. It sucks on a financial level. I say “almost all of us” because I am sure there are those like my son Jude who are revelling in the fact they are banned to the basement with their online multi-player games, happily chatting with friends for hours at a time. We forced him to join us on a walk yesterday to get some fresh air and remember what natural light looked like. When he tripped and fell into the creek we were skipping rocks into, he exclaimed, “See! Nothing good happens outside!”. Of course, we barely heard him because we were laughing so loud….
However, amidst the chaos, and daily doom and gloom, there are some incredible things taking place, which are going to have us emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. First and foremost is the recognition by all levels of government that the hospitality and tourism sector plays a vital role financially and socially. We saw a little bit of this during SARS and with the national ramifications of COVID-19, the reality of our importance to communities, the province and all of Canada is only magnified. We are the first businesses to suffer in a time of crisis, but we are also the first businesses to rebound once it is over.
There has also been an alignment of communication that I have never seen before in all my time in the industry – both up and down the chain. I have been on weekly calls with the Hon. Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. During these calls, she is relaying the latest information she has on the situation and measures being taken to support the industry. More importantly, she is directing us to feed her team, and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), information from stakeholders, municipalities and DMO’s so that she can take your messages back to Cabinet. I am not sure when she finds time to sleep because our call with her is just one of many she is having with industry from across the province. The TIAO website has the most up-to-date information for tourism stakeholders and should be a place you visit often (www.tiaontario.ca). Things are changing rapidly at all levels of government so it is also wise to check in with your municipal site and regional sites – www.durham.ca, www.york.ca, www.dufferincounty.ca.
At a regional level, organizations like Durham Tourism are coordinating weekly calls with municipal partners to learn what is taking place now and to start to plan how we are better positioned to get people to visit once the crisis is over. CCT is on those calls so that we can support the efforts being made. And we are also coordinating with Destination Ontario, so that our stakeholder stories will be featured in their consumer communications and campaigns.
There is a great need for information from our industry. You have probably been getting lots of survey requests from your municipality, Chamber, BIA, Region, and Province. So many that you may be suffering from survey overload – especially since they all focus on the impact that the pandemic is having on your business. I get that it is painful and stressful to fill in some of that information, but it is vitally important if we want the various levels of government to set programs in motion that are going to have immediate, tangible relief for small- and medium-sized businesses in the industry. The next industry survey will be coming from TIAO in a week or so. You will probably receive the link from many sources because of these amazing lines of communication, and I implore you to take the time to complete it and forward it to other businesses in your community. The more of us that complete it, the bigger the impact the results will have on the decision-makers.
One of the things I talk about a lot is the difference between working IN your business and working ON your business. For many small business owners, there is never time to work on the business – developing relationships and plans that can increase the numbers of visitors and, as importantly, the amount of money in your cash registers. I think that many business owners are like me and need to have goals they are trying to achieve to keep them focused and energized. With your doors forced shut, it is the perfect time to focus on the things you haven’t had time to do for your business.
This is where Central Counties can really assist. We know destination development. We know the other businesses in your area that you can partner with. We will work with you to develop compelling experiences to launch when you re-open. We can help you set up new programs and experiences that you can deliver RIGHT NOW to build your customer base virtually so you are top of mind when we are all allowed back into the world.
Working on your business during this downtime will a) help get your mind off your other stresses for a while, b) provide hope and allow you to visualize the light at the end of the tunnel and c) position your business for a quick ramp-up and future success once you do re-open. Let’s start the conversation today. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now is not the time to be shy. Any information you want to share, please let me know and I will push it up the chain. Central Counties is here to help tell your story and work with you so we all come out of this stronger. Hang in there and please, please reach out.