The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the local restaurant and hospitality industries. As a result, several organizations are coming together to launch a new campaign aimed at local residents to encourage people to explore local businesses in Hamilton County.
The Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau said COVID-19 has decimated the travel and hospitality industry in the region. Since March, it says, 155 groups have canceled conventions in Hamilton County, resulting in a loss of 126,000 hotel room nights and $60 million in direct sales. Occupancy in Downtown hotels has been hovering around 10-13% on any given day.
"Those numbers are staggering in terms of what we're seeing," said Julie Calvert, CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We've never had anything like this before."
Calvert said those numbers aren't going to improve any time soon, leaving businesses continuing to suffer as the pandemic continues.
"The damage and the decimation that continues to occur to the hospitality and the travel industry as a result of COVID-19 is really not showing signs of letting up in earnest," said Calvert.
The bureau, along with the regional Chamber of Commerce and other organizations is launching a new campaign aimed at local support for these businesses. CARES Act funding allocated to the county will provide funding for it.
"This is really an economic stimulus. This is about helping small businesses and entrepreneurs in our arts and cultural organizations that have been struggling through a pandemic to keep their doors open, make sure people know that they can do things safely," said Brendon Cull, senior vice president of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Cull said the campaign will highlight the efforts local businesses are taking to keep people safe, while showcasing what's open and where throughout Hamilton County. He said the idea is that residents living in Blue Ash could consider heading over to Anderson to check out local businesses, or Harrison residents can explore the Downtown areas and vice-versa.
With conventions, festivals and other draws for businesses likely not returning any time soon, a little local tourism can go a long way, he said.
"You can be a tourist in your own home town," said Cull. "You can experience things locally here, and discover parts of Hamilton County that you may not have known existed. And you can take care of your neighbors by supporting your business, by keeping their doors open."
Groups involved in creating the campaign plan to spend the next few weeks putting it together, with a launch date planned for late October, in the hopes of driving business for November and December.