In the business community, tourism can positively contribute to future expansions and relocation opportunities. How have the events and hospitality industries been impacted, and how are businesses, such as Visit Fort Worth, preparing to return as Fort Worth begins to reopen?
Brandom Gengelbach, President of the Fort Worth Chamber, hosted Bob Jameson, President and CEO of Visit Fort Worth, to discuss the organization’s experience and its marketing strategy for tourists while continuing to prioritize safety with the current climate.
COVID-19’s impact on Visit Fort Worth
According to Jameson, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the travel industry dramatically. Visit Fort Worth’s mission is to bring people together, including events and activities that require gathering. But as everyone in this industry has seen, the bottom drops out when the best way to protect from exposure is to shelter in place or to self-isolate. He cites a national statistic, stating that at least 51% of the service industry is unemployed, and that he personally knows many business leaders who have had to make extremely difficult decisions in regards to operations and staff layoffs or furloughs.
“How do you adjust and adapt, and reduce staff and/or expenses when your occupancy goes down from 80% to 5%?” Jameson asks.
Projections for travel and tourism within the next few months
Regarding travel, Jameson is seeing what was expected- while it’s gradually coming back, almost all currently conducted travel is local.
Visit Fort Worth’s focus regarding travel and tourism is their Y’all Get Ready campaign, which is primarily directed to road trippers within the state.
“People will make decisions [regarding travel] based on the need to control their environment,” he adds. “People won’t feel like they’re in control getting on a plane.”
He believes that the next big step will occur when business travel resumes, as well as when meetings and conferences are finally approved under limitations or restrictions. To him, the focus will most likely be on inviting attendees in accordance what is currently deemed ‘acceptable’.
Balancing potential criticisms for opening Fort Worth
Jameson acknowledges the potential backlash to opening Fort Worth, which is understandable. He has incredible respect for every elected official trying to help their city, county, or state, and recognizes the pressure on both sides as officials respond as best as they can.
“What are the measures and safety practices put in place, and how can we confidently convey to visitors that we have those measures in place?,” he asked. “Our role is to be in the middle of these conversations and help establish appropriate guidelines, and communicate that they’re in place. When we have the right story to tell, it’s time to reach out.”
Reopen Responsibly Campaign
Jameson touches on another Visit Fort Worth initiative, the Reopen Responsibly Campaign. The committee is engaging in conversations about masks, hand washing, social distancing, and other ideas and actions that have become a part of our language. Additionally, they are asking businesses to make a commitment that they will follow the guidelines to the best of their ability and communicate and have employee expectations to follow safe habits.
He’s hopeful that as people sign onto this platform, it will build an incredible list of entities across the community that will allow Visit Fort Worth to deliver the message of creating consumer confidence. To him, “Fort Worth is and will continue to be a city united in its efforts to take care of each other and to take care of our visitors.”
To Jameson, this time has served as an opportunity to really focus on what’s important and use this time as a reset. Additionally, it’s served as a time to focus on the future and set the stage for a successful growth out of this time period.
“Seeing the spirit of the city reflected in acts of service and kindness validates why I’ve loved living here for as long as I have. It’s a great place for the hospitality industry to grow.”
Leaders Online, an alternative to in-person programming, was created to assist Fort Worth Chamber members with obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders Online features industry experts via virtual livestreams to answer questions and guide local employers in situations they’re likely not familiar with, associated with COVID-19. For a complete list of upcoming virtual events, click here.