Destination Cleveland Throws Up Hands, Launches "Rediscover CLE" Marketing Campaign


  • Courtesy Destination Cleveland
One feels for tourism bureaus these days. David Gilbert and his diminished cohort over at Destination Cleveland launched what they called a "three-pronged" plan for the responsible re-opening of the region back in May. It began with a campaign to get local businesses on the same page with respect to cleanliness standards and Covid-19 protocols.

They called that the "Clean Committed" campaign, and according to Destination Cleveland's latest press release, more than 300 local businesses in the tourism and tourism-adjacent spheres, (hotels and restaurants, mostly), have signed on. Gilbert himself told the PD that the number was more like 400.

Back in late May, close on the heels of Ohio's Stay Home order, hotels were hovering in the 10-percent occupancy range. According to PD travel editor Susan Glaser, the most recent occupancy numbers are about 42 percent, which is down from the 70-percent vicinity last year but still surprising, given the pandemic.

Gilbert and Co. recognize that there's not really an ideal time to launch a campaign aimed at getting folks out and about when an airborne virus lurks — and when dining indoors remains an extremely high-risk proposition — but stressed that the aim of the Clean Committed campaign was to give residents peace of mind by establishing a uniform set of standards for businesses.

This morning they've gone ahead and launched Phase 2 of the plan, which is aimed at getting locals to responsibly explore the region.

“We know there are many factors Destination Cleveland cannot control in the current environment that contribute to residents’ interest in and comfort level to get out and explore,” said Gilbert, in the Destination Cleveland launch materials. “What we can do is help in the most responsible way possible: by providing ideas and motivation to our fellow Clevelanders as well as a program for business owners that signifies to residents and visitors that health, cleanliness and safe practices are a top concern."

In the opening letter of a new resource guide for locals, Gilbert addresses both the challenges of recovering from Covid-19 and "dismantling structural racism." One can tell he's struggling with how to most appropriately support the local tourist economy, in which he's a central figure. He asks Clevelanders to "show [their] pride" by supporting the region's businesses, but only "when [they're] ready and with the health of others in mind."  In comments to the PD, Gilbert said the timing for today's launch feels "as good as it can."

The resource guide includes, in addition to ideas for the responsible exploration of the region, a guide to Black-owned businesses and Black cultural sites. A print copy of the guide will be distributed in the coming days at local retailers, coffee shops, and restaurants.

The directory of "Clean Committed" businesses is available at Destination Cleveland asks residents to encourage their favorite businesses across the region to sign on. Gilbert said that while they're focusing on locals for now, when they do begin to start marketing in a concerted way to outside visitors once again, the Clean Committed campaign will be an important selling point.

One can by sympathetic to the plight of struggling hotels and restaurants, but the virus is not going away anytime soon. Dr. Deborah Birx, the lead White House physician overseeing the U.S. Coronavirus response, said Sunday that the country was entering a "new phase" of the pandemic, in which the virus is "extraordinarily widespread" in both urban and rural environments. As death totals continue to climb, she stressed the importance of strict physical distancing measures and wearing masks.

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