As our country faces an unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism and hospitality industries in Virginia were particularly hard hit during this period. Tourism is usually a big deal for Virginia. In 2018, visitors to Charlottesville and Albemarle County spent $ 654 million, which supported almost 6,000 work opportunities and contributed more than $ 22 billion in local tax revenue, but according to a survey. carried out by the SIR, 88% of businesses in the tourism industry in Virginia declared a loss of income due to COVD-19, while 60% had to reduce their workforce and 62% closed completely. Unprecedented Decline in Income and Reduction in Workforce Create Serious Concern for Business Owners and Have Economic Impact in Travel and Tourism Industry for the foreseeable future . As the Commonwealth reopens slowly for business, people will miss leaving their homes and traveling again after being locked up for so long. Travel is what will move the country forward once again, and it will be a critical part of Virginia’s economic recovery. However, as other states see COVID-19 spikes following reopening too soon, we must also be smart and aware of others as we start traveling again. The Virginia tourism industry needs to plan how to re-engage visitors in a thoughtful manner and encourage safe travel. According to a study on the feeling of travel carried out by Destination Analysts, the comfort of travelers on reopening continues to increase, half now agreeing that their country of origin is reopening their economy at the moment, against 35% may’s beginning . Based on industry research, short trips to the state and others will be the first to return when the restrictions are lifted. Travelers are looking for safe, close-to-home destinations that allow for social distancing and access to open spaces, particularly beach, outdoor and rural experiences. As we continue to work together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic , we encourage tourism industry to commit to ensuring the safety and health of visitors, businesses and local residents. To do this, businesses and attractions will need to meet the prudent traveler by strengthening safety measures, including additional cleaning and sanitation, wearing face masks, reducing visitor capacity, virtual deals, options for contactless payment and other ways to reduce the spread of transmission. Many communities are working with local businesses on a commitment that follows guidelines recommended by the CDC and public health officials to help make a safe environment a top priority while travelers enjoy the attractions and experiences that make Virginia so special. Likewise, travelers to Virginia will also need to take steps to re the safety of others. We encourage visitors to keep a distance of at least six feet from others when going to an attraction and to wear a face mask when social distancing is not possible. And if visitors are sick, we recommend that they stay at home and plan a next visit. The tourism industry is resilient and will rebound from this crisis. No other economic sector can match tourism’s ability to quickly re-engage businesses and get employees back to work. But in order to rebound quickly, the tourism industry and travelers must take all the necessary steps to encourage everyone’s health and safety while we all sail during this time. Susan Payne is Chair of the Board of Virginia Tourism Corporation and President and Owner of Blue Ridge Group, a marketing company located in Charlottesville. .

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