Industry Update
Opinion Article18 May 2020

5 Steps on the Path to Reopening This Month

By Babs Harrison, Managing director of Phoenix based Babs Harrison and Partners

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You can feel the energy. More of us are getting eager to travel and here's the deal: Smart money says much of the first round of travel will be local and primarily via car.

Public transit (planes, trains, and subways) are a no go for many of the wary right now.

A proof of this prediction is in a new MMGY poll that says there's optimism about a Memorial Day rebound for road trips: "We see in our data that people feel safest in their cars and in a travel environment in whic h they can control their surroundings," Clayton Reid, Global CEO of MMGY, said.

The company's recent poll found that 68% of consumers feel safe in their cars, while 40% feel safe in parks.

Other polls say similar.

Said Reid, "This could mean some significant short-haul trips over Memorial Day to parks and other outdoor attractions."

Bet on it and I say that with great confidence about states like Arizona and Utah and New Mexico - with plentiful parks, lots of open spaces, and close enough to urban areas to have a drive-market audience ready to hit the road.

I can see similar in western Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, New York State, Virginia, Oregon, really just about everywhere there are resorts in eye-popping natural settings close to urban markets where many cooped-up people want to hit the road - but stay safe and healthy.

Question: are you ready?

Hint: a lot of you are not.

This morning I surfed around and - without naming names - found many resorts with the standard photos: a bustling, crowded restaurant; a swimming pool populated by suit-wearing wedding guests, many dozens of them; a busy resort gym; a bar with elbow-to-elbow tipplers.

Others chose cheerful parking attendants taking over a car driven by an incoming guest and other shots show bellhops grabbing bags (no gloves, no sanitizers, no masks in view).

What's wrong with those pictures?

Just about everything. They were fine for the pre Covid-19 era but this is now and times are different.

For instance, a recent Arizona Republic poll found considerable unease about crowds. The story headline says it: "Reopening Arizona: Not ready to get back out there? New poll shows you're not alone."

A recent national Gallup poll found a majority of us - 58% -- are still social distancing.

Know those realities as you gear up to - possibly - greet your fi rst wave of guests in two months,

Here are five steps to ready you for success.

Step one in successfully preparing to welcome drive guests this Memorial Day is tidy up your website photo libraries. 86 the crowd shots. Don't erase the photos. Probably you will put them back up in a year or two when Covid-19 fades into memory.

But for now crowds - which had conveyed excitement, a certain buzz - trigger fear and a determination to go elsewhere.

Step two: Purge recent Facebook and Instagram posts in a similar way. Crowd shots go. Let's not go too far back in history - certainly any posts from 2019 and earlier can stay. But let's not convey the impression of busy crowds in 2020.

Step three: Time is short so get busy posting on Facebook and Instagram with the new message that you are ready to safely host guests in a healthy, refreshing environment. Stay tightly focused on the message, don't clutter your social channels with too many frantic posts.

Step four: Contact local media, especially television (think local morning shows), with the upbeat story that your property is primed to safely handle an influx of drive guests over Memorial Day. Big-city TV stations in your vicinity (think up to 500-mile distant, a day's drive) are the prime market. Be ready to talk about activities in nature, wellness, and culinary (stress your room service options if you offer them and you should).

Step five: Make very sure that all staff with possible guest contact - and that means pretty much everybody - can succinctly detail what the property is doing now to keep guests safe from coronavirus. What are the new steps? Of course every staff member won't know the full story. But everybody has to know the property has instituted comprehensive steps that are intended to deliver heightened safety for guests and employees alike.

Babs Harrison

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