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The Valley Business Today: Clarke County Business & Tourism

17 June 2020

We pre-recorded today’s conversation with Felicia Hart, Interim Director of Economic Development & Tourism for Clarke County to talk about business and tourism in Clarke County during the pandemic.

Felicia told us about the current state of business in Clarke County and talked about the number of businesses that have re-opened and how they’ve met the situation with new services like curbside and delivery. She gave us a quick overview of what she’s seeing and hearing from local businesses:

  • Many have hired back their original staff. But some are looking for new hires too.
  • Local restaurants are seeing guests from the DC, Loudoun and Northern Virginia areas.
  • Local B&Bs and AirBnBs are getting busier with many of the guests from the Northern VA area and some from out of state.
  • Pick-your-own fruit markets are booked solid for the next two weeks – a sign that online registration has been a success.
  • Unemployment numbers have climbed, but they are working together regionally to determine new workforce training opportunities. They are still trying to determine if these are permanent or temporarily, unemployed.

In Phase II many businesses are now able to allow customers into their stores and restaurants. Felicia explained the Open And Safe Northern Shenandoah Valley pledge.

Created by the Northern Shenandoah Valley COVID-19 Economic Response Team, consisting of Frederick County, Clarke County, the City of Winchester, the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center, and the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber, the OpenAndSafeNSV campaign is an effort to unite and create solidarity amongst business owners in the region. Having a business community that is united to ensure the safety of themselves, their staff, their visitors, and the community as a whole will boost customer confidence in returning to the experiences they have valued for years.

For more information about the pledge, visit their website: https://openandsafensv.biz/

From a tourism perspective, Felicia told us that the state parks are busy because people are looking for outdoor opportunities – while still social distancing. As they’ve been working closely with Virginia Tourism Corporation and other traveling/tourism industries they’ve learned:

  • 6 out of 10 families will be doing something to get out this July 4th
  • Many who are traveling now are visiting family and friends. They feel the need to reconnect and improve their emotional well-being.
  • AirBnBs and RV rentals are up. People want their own space – and control where they are going – when.

She offered these tips for businesses when marketing your business:

  • A recent survey shows that 74% of Consumers will be doing research on your business regarding the COVID-19 situation. They want to know what your expectations are of them. Are they expected to wear a mask? Do they have to sign up in advance for certain times? Having this information easily available helps set the tone and helps to minimize surprised guests.
  • State up front what your cleaning pledge is. People want to know.
  • Make sure that all the information on your website and social media is current and correct. Ensure the links are working and are taking your guests to the latest information.
  • Remember to create an emotional connection for your new guests. Pull at their heart strings. Recreate emotions of your past visitors too.

We also talked about a virtual “Restaurant Town Hall” that will be happening on July 17 at 1:30pm.

You can register for that here: bit.ly/resttownhall

It will include representatives from the local health department, updates on the current state of economic development and tourism, PPP/EIDL loan information, and the ability to connect with other restaurant owners.

The Valley Business Today: Clarke County Business & Tourism

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