Courtesy Destination Cleveland
Destination Cleveland President & CEO David Gilbert, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, County Executive Armond Budish and representatives from the major local hospitals announced a new campaign Wednesday to help resuscitate the region's travel and tourism industries with buy-in from residents and businesses.
The #Undefeated campaign will first invite restaurants and hotels to agree to a uniform set of safety and cleanliness standards. These "CLEan Committed" businesses will get signage to display in their establishments and "clean kits," complete with hand sanitizer, paper masks and safety materials, to distribute to patrons.
Once the businesses sign on, Destination Cleveland will then invite residents to share stories on social media about their own efforts to keep Cleveland safe as it re-opens. In July, residents will be encouraged to "rediscover and reconnect" with their city.
Gilbert said in a press call Wednesday that this collaborative effort was pulled together in the past 5-6 weeks, during a time when the travel and tourism bureau has furloughed more than half of its staff in light of their dramatically reduced revenue.
"Right now, there is no tourism economy, to put it bluntly," Gilbert said. "Hotel occupancy, which is usually around 60 percent this time of year, is at about 10 percent. We're starting to see that first thaw of people who are starting to consider travel, but it will be a slow and steady rise."
Gilbert said that hotels nationwide aren't projecting a return to 2019 occupancy levels until at least 2023. And Destination Cleveland, which is funded largely by the hotel bed tax, will be adjusting its belt as finances modulate.
The loss in local entertainment taxes and sales taxes are affecting municipal budgets as well. Both Jackson and Budish said they were proud to be working alongside Destination Cleveland and eager to continue supporting local small businesses. Both the city and county have dedicated resources for small business loans.
"We have to do this," said Budish. "Otherwise we won't have much of an economy to re-open."
Gilbert stressed that the #Undefeated initiative was based on national research and motivated by a belief that "undefeated optimism defines Clevelanders." The campaign will focus first and foremost on residents, not outside travelers.
"We need that community focus," Gilbert said. "This is designed to help lead the community out of the initial phase of the crisis."
Doctors from Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals noted that it was important for residents to know that health was being prioritized. The "CLEan Committed" campaign will begin on June 3, and local companies will be able to purchase cleaning products from Supply Side USA at reasonable rates. Every restaurant in the county will be eligible to participate and will receive 50 clean kits when they sign on.
Cuyahoga County has committed $700,000 in funding from its federal CARES Act dollars to support the program. Those funds will go toward the production and distribution of roughly 300,000 clean kits across the region.
Frank Jackson, to his credit, continued to note that the pandemic is not over. He said that while re-opening the economy was a necessity, the sustainability of the effort will be based on how seriously people take safety precautions.
On June 10, Destination Clevleand will launch the #MyWordMyCLE effort, which will ask residents to share their stories on social media, to promote safe practices, make commitments on an individual level.
Gilbert said that even with a sustained publicity effort to communicate safe and healthy practices, "there are no guarantees" that there won't be a second wave of the coronavirus.
"What we really want is a community wide movement where people are going to make public commitments," he said. "We think this has a real chance to be seen as a model around the country."
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