Postpone, Don’t Cancel

The importance of communicating during a pandemic

by Jack Moneypenny, President and CEO, Destination Door County

There is a level of uncertainty surrounding the current health crisis that is unsettling. This crisis has affected everyone in Door County in one way or another, and at a time when our county’s primary economic engine traditionally revs up to get ready for the upcoming tourism season, the uncertainty can be even more unsettling. 

We’ve heard many questions about the upcoming season from concerned members of our tourism community: When will it start? Will there be one? What is Destination Door County doing about it? Why isn’t Destination Door County controlling the message more? Will travel be different?

We’ve seen other destinations around the country dealing with issues similar to ours, with state and local governments as well as local residents rightfully concerned about visitors and second-home owners traveling to rural areas that may lack the medical capacity to deal with the type of care that is sometimes required for COVID-19 patients. 

We are, quite frankly, in a situation that those of us in the hospitality industry have never been in before: having to ask visitors to temporarily postpone trips to our destinations.

In Door County, welcoming visitors is what we know. It’s who we are, what we do and what we like to be. Our organization has been promoting Door County as a tourism destination since the mid-1880s. We’ve made it through two world wars, the last worldwide health pandemic (1918-19), the Great Depression and several other major challenges along the way. And we will make it through this current health crisis, too. 

The swiftness of changing recommendations and travel advisories surrounding this health crisis add to the challenging nature of dealing with a worldwide pandemic. Although we’ve participated in a number of tourism-related teleconferences led by state and national tourism organizations during the past month, the truth is that we don’t yet know when local, state or federal health authorities will say it’s safe for people to move about and allow travel to begin. And when travel is allowed again, no one knows exactly what it will look like.

Although we do not yet have answers to many important questions, what we do know is that when travel is once again deemed safe and allowed to commence, we’re going to need visitors in Door County more than ever. We can control how we act and what we do today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. We have been and are planning for the future, and we know that once this is behind us, we are going to need our visitors more than ever – from an economic standpoint as well as to help us all feel like things are getting back to normal, whatever that may be.

All of us – from Destination Door County to community business associations to local businesses and even individual year-round residents – need to be spreading a positive message far and wide about how much we appreciate visitors, how important they are to us here and how we look forward to welcoming them back to Door County just as soon as we move past this health crisis. 

We want people to move their trip plans, not cancel them. This message needs to be shared right now on social media and websites, and in emails with customers and phone conversations with future guests. Anywhere and everywhere we can, our messages need to inspire future travel. Simply put, replace “Don’t come” with “Wait until it’s safe.” 

Although this responsibility certainly falls on the shoulders of Destination Door County, it will also take each of us doing our own part to help Door County’s tourism industry move forward, both during and beyond the health crisis. The phrase “We’re all in this together” may seem overused, but it could never be more true. It will take all of us, working together, to provide a unified voice that lets visitors and nonresident property owners know how valued and important they are to us. And when the time is right, together we will welcome them back to Door County with open arms. We are all in this together.