Shhhh. Can you hear that? I think that is Phase 3 coming down the tracks. Its arrival is highly anticipated but what is it really going to mean? For much of the general public, it means there is light at the end of the tunnel – a sense that sometime in the foreseeable future things will get back to normal. While hope is a wonderful thing, it doesn’t pay the bills.
For our industry, what Phase 3 doesn’t mean is complacency. Phase 3 doesn’t flip a switch that allows your business to operate at 100% capacity. Phase 3 doesn’t magically ease all consumers’ minds so that everyone goes back to pre-COVID routines. Phase 3 doesn’t mean that the tourism industry no longer needs support from all levels of government, not to mention each other.
Just this week, Cirque du Soleil filed for creditor protection. Big company, big news. My bet is that several people reading this, and hundreds around our region, are quietly running the numbers, watching their dreams slip through their fingers and dreading having to call the guy they hear daily on the radio at 310-DEBT. This is not the time to ease up. Our industry needs more support than ever to help them survive.
How do we do it? Well, first I believe we keep telling your stories so that all levels of government understand that operating at 20-50% capacity isn’t feasible without continued wage subsidies, rent relief, tax relief and debt forgiveness. Unless your business operates at a 50-80% profit margin, you are losing money at 20-50% capacity. Kudos to the government for allowing the modified openings to happen, because it does provide a sense of normalcy for the general public. However, these permissions don’t absolve them for continued support because without it, the very businesses they allowed to open are going to disappear quickly.
The second thing we do is ensure that all businesses can maximize the revenues they can make with their new limited capacities. To me, this involves three steps – business preparedness, consumer confidence, and compelling content. It is going to cost businesses a lot of unbudgeted funds to re-open. Plexiglass, sanitizing stations, signage and PPE are expensive and come at a time when there has been no revenue. Please tell your story to your local and regional council/staff, your MPP and TIAO (www.TIAOntario.ca) so they are reminded that, for you, it’s not over.
Earlier this month we helped fund a study of 2,000 Ontario Travellers and 1,000 from out-of-province that travel to Ontario, to learn more about their comfort levels and intentions to get out and explore. Not surprisingly, most are going to stay close to home this year. They indicated that they want to go where they have a comfort level that things have been done to minimize their risk. Consumer Education then bubbles to the top of the list in terms of importance. If we can collectively – from individual businesses, BIA’s, Municipalities, DMO’s and Central Counties – develop and convey all of the great processes and protocols we are implementing to keep people safe, the public will feel comfortable visiting and spending their money. Central Counties is going to work with municipalities and our regional partners to help build consumer confidence in the businesses that make up our industry so that more people venture out into the world.
Once the businesses are open and consumers are feeling confident to go out, we then need to work together to build compelling content. Working together is more important than ever before. The number of people willing to travel is limited. The businesses that make up the industry don’t have the money at the moment to launch their own campaigns. And people who do venture out to explore are going to travel where there are several options to choose from. We want to work with you and your industry neighbours to build compelling content which will convince people to come to us over another destination.
Even your local hotel partners can/should get involved. I know the idea of spending a night away from my place sounds fantastic, especially if there are some fun things to do during the day and a great meal to enjoy. By helping each other out, there is a better chance for survival, which means that as the world re-opens your community remains a vibrant place to live, run your business, and visit.
I urge you to reach out to us to start or further a conversation about how we can assist your business and community thrive. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.