Last week was a strange one of in-betweens — between our once-normal life and our alternative COVID-19 one, between our town shut down in a bubble and others on the brink of some form of reopening.
As we face the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, our efforts naturally turn to creating a clean and safe environment for our guests to enjoy and the well-being of all of us.
Now that we are “enjoying” the deafening silence of no visitors, we realize how crucial tourism is to our economy and quality of life.
There’s no question that this pandemic is the biggest challenge the tourism industry and Niagara-on-the-Lake as a destination have faced in the past 40 years. But, despite the chilling emptiness of our streets and zero per cent occupancy rates in our hotels, bed and breakfasts and short-term rentals, not to mention employee lay-offs and closed shops, it’s time to think about the future and show respect and care for those who have been our source of revenue for so many years: our visitors.
So, what will the Niagara-on-the-Lake brand bring to the post-coronavirus tourism world? Tradition, culture, elegance, heritage, nature, beauty and that “savoir faire” that has been, during the last 70 years, our signature to welcome guests and visitors. We should not allow COVID-19, and the excessive use of restrictions, destroy Niagara-on-the-Lake as one of the most recognized and cherished tourism destinations in Canada. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hotels, B&Bs and short-term rentals are talking about ways they’re readying their properties and timing for openings.
The cultural stakeholders are looking at ways of sharing resources so they can open their sector to recovery, as well as new initiatives for different venues. Restaurants, retailers and wineries, who have not stopped doing curbside delivery, are innovating and redesigning their shops and spaces to the new social distancing rules. Niagara-on-the-Lake is looking to the future.
Sometimes it’s hard to think about tomorrow, when today’s reality appears less than promising. We are all wondering about the future; when will all this be over? I suggest visualizing what we want the future to look like. Taking into consideration the realities of today, let’s imagine the innovations that can make that vision come to life, and put them into action. I am convinced our destination, Niagara-on-the-Lake will be more vibrant than ever.
The hospitality and travel industries, the theatres, museums, festivals, restaurants, shops and wineries will bounce back and they will flourish. Their offers may look different than they did last year, or even three months ago, but surely we will return.
The Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL are here to provide you information and resources to consider as we visualize and create an even more welcoming industry, where guests feel safe and taken care of.
Eduardo Lafforgue is the president and CEO of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL.