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If you pay them, they will come: US cities giving tourists cash to visit | US News

MRedmond, Washington, home of icrosoft, has turned into a very simple way to jump-start tourism more than a year after the outbreak of Covid-19 and the depletion of corporate travel on which it became dependent. It was.

In a small city just east of Seattle, Microsoft’s headquarters are located alongside companies such as Nintendo of America, the aerospace company SpaceX, and Facebook.

So, on March 4, 2020, when Microsoft recommended that tens of thousands of employees in the city work remotely and other locals followed suit, the impact would spread to locals, especially the hotel industry. Explained Peter Krauser, Tourism Manager at Experience Redmond.

“Hotel occupancy has dropped from 65% to 85%, down to single digits, or 6% or 9%,” he said. “In some cases, one hotel had only one guest throughout the hotel.”

A few months later, when things didn’t change much, Krauser was joking with his colleagues and brainstorming creative solutions to bring visitors back to the city. .. “

This idea inspired the program “You Stay, We Pay,” which started at the end of last month. The program will provide $ 100 worth of community currency “GeekOut Gold” to the first 500 visitors staying at participating hotels for at least two nights.

It’s not just Redmond. Tourism-dependent cities across the United States have this type of financial incentive to signal the arrival of a new wave of socially distant visitors after the economy has been hit by a pandemic and its consequent closure. I turned to the program.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for example, is a resort community 40 miles northwest of Aspen, home to approximately 10,000 people and typically attracts 1.5 million visitors annually. However, after the hotel was closed for unnecessary trips last April and the hot springs were closed for several months during the summer, the town offered a $ 100 Glenwood Gold certificate to visitors who booked hotel rooms. I started to do it.

Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion at Visit Glenwood Springs, said the program, launched last June, did not return to normal visit levels, but acted as a temporary but important “band-aid”. I said I did.

“It energized us and drove us to a very difficult time,” she told the Guardian. “But now we feel like we’re heading in the right direction and we’ll be back strong. We’re not as worried as this time last year.”

Santa Maria Valley in central California created a similar program in February to present a $ 100 Visa gift card to the first 500 visitors who booked a stay of at least two nights at one of their hotels. did. According to Jennifer Harrison, Tourism Director of Visit Santa Maria Valley, the community known for barbecues and wineries sold out in two days, after which 2,543 people were on the waiting list.

She gave success not only financial incentives, but also timing (“people were ready to travel”) and social as thousands of masks were provided to local hotels for workers and guests. It was attributed to the community’s clear commitment to distance and mask. .. And now, after the program officially ends, it continues to have an impact.

“We are still looking at the results of future bookings. Engagement on social platforms has increased significantly. That was a big win for us,” she said.

According to Krauser, Redmond initially faced several challenges in getting local merchants to agree to be part of it. Some came up with the idea right away, while others felt that the visitor wasn’t confident about paying with a certificate or didn’t have time to sign up.

In the end, he said, he was able to carry about 50 merchants, including restaurants, fitness facilities, salons, bookstores, pet supplies stores, and even the local shipping store Pony Express. Authorities then used funds from the city’s 1% accommodation tax to subsidize the event, but little was used the previous year due to the program’s $ 50,000 worth of incentives.

Within two weeks of the program’s launch, Krauser said he booked 750 of the expected 1,000-room nights and awarded visitors more than $ 30,000.

Microsoft is headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Photo: Ian Dagnall / Alamy / Alamy

“The anecdote from hotel owners this week is that their phones are off-hook and people are very excited,” Clauser explained. “As you know, they’ve got more bookings than they saw over a year ago, so they were very positive in every way.”

However, he stated that the program would not interfere with Covid’s security restrictions. He explained that the offer does not change anything for hotels that continue to adhere to regional and national safety protocols, such as capacity limits and social distances.

On March 22, Microsoft announced that it would reopen its Redmond campus to its employees. This is what Krauser thinks is great news for the city. However, he does not believe that this change will have a particularly significant impact immediately.

In fact, he is already considering starting a second installment payment for the incentive program after this is over.

“This was intended to be a shot in the arms, a short-term tourism stimulus program,” he said. “But the momentum was so great that I would like to continue for a little longer if possible, so I’m looking for options for this future phase.”

If you pay them, they will come: US cities giving tourists cash to visit | US News

Source link If you pay them, they will come: US cities giving tourists cash to visit | US News

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