Submitted by the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau.
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau acknowledges and is concerned about the far-reaching impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on our small community. All around us we see acts of kindness and cohesiveness that make us grateful to be part of an exceptional community, but we realize it will take all of us continuing to pull together to get through the hardship.
You may be wondering what The Visitors Bureau—the county’s destination marketing and management organization – DMO – is doing right now, when our usual task is to promote visitation to the Islands. From the onset of the crisis, we’ve been working with the County Council, Department of Health & Community Services, and Department of Emergency Management on appropriate messaging to potential visitors. We posted our first Travel Advisory on March 16, and have been adjusting it to reflect the County’s mandates. It is now called Travel Restrictions and addresses emerging challenges presented by the coronavirus and visitors.
Like other DMOs around the state and country, we’ve suspended our advertising campaigns. Our staff hours have been reduced, but our work remains devoted to helping our visitor-dependent island businesses, and nonprofits stay informed and afloat. We’ve been fortunate to take part in free webinars by highly respected international tourism consulting companies, and media relations associations. We are taking their recommendation to be creative and do “soft messaging” vs. “hard marketing,” putting out social media messages to travel dreamers and planners that the Islands will welcome them back when it’s safe to travel again.
So, here are some highlights of what we’ve been up to:
* Collecting economic business impact data and occupancy data for the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) and San Juan County’s Economic Development Council to help show funding needs.
* Sending out our member e-news with links to important information for small businesses, non-profits and artists seeking economic help, on a local, state and federal level.
* We’ve forwarded opportunities such as the gift card programs by Lopez Eats, #OrcasStrong, the EDC’s #IslandsStrong and WTA’s ShowWAlove. We’ve compiled a #SanJuanIslandsStrong web page as a hub for the Islands’ various gift card programs.
* Posting soft messages to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including a “San Juan ‘Islands Time’ Challenge” that has been steadily gaining popularity. It asks people to post a photo or video as to how they’re enjoying slowing down and appreciating the little things in life like islanders do.
While our staff works from the shelter of our homes, we encourage you to reach out with questions, concerns, requests, or even just to say hi: www.visitsanjuans.com/contact-us.