Pandemic Presents Challenges For Tourism Marketing In Iowa Great Lakes

Wed 9-9-2020

(Okoboji)-- Like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant change this summer when it comes to marketing tourism in the Iowa Great Lakes. Rebecca Peters of Okoboji Tourism says they were forced to start making changes already at the onset of the pandemic back in March...Rebecca Peters01 (2) 

"We luckily were in a position where most of our advertising at that point was digital and so we were able to put a pause on all of it and we paused, it I think, until one week before Memorial Day and at that point we put out a piece that just said, basically it was an inspirational video saying that we will all be together again in Okoboji. And that was kind of our way of testing the waters to see first how does our community feel about it and secondly how do our travelers feel about it. And that received really good feed back so we waited through Memorial Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend people seemed willing to travel this area again."

Peters says they moved into a new phase in June when things started to open back up...Rebecca Peters02 (2) 

"So at that point we shifted our advertising and said when you're ready to travel to this area, we're ready to welcome you. Because that was the big question that visitors had: are you open, are you welcoming visitors, what is there for us to do? And so then our goal was to keep information open so that people would know what was happening. That continued really throughout the month of June, and then in July or marketing shifted to showcase that yes we are open and yes you are welcome to visit us in our community. All of our marketing efforts, also shifted in terms of visuals and the messaging that was used, so instead of showing visuals of large groups and some of the things that maybe weren't open or maybe aren't recommended or encouraged throughout this summer, all of that changed. So it was an individual family playing on the beach, or it was, you know, people on the bike trail, so all of our marketing shifted to reflect the way we wanted people to enjoy our community."

Peters didn't mention any specific dollar amounts, but records show Hotel-Motel tax revenue was down 18 percent from April through June of this year in Dickinson county. Peters that forced them to scale back and reallocate some of their resources...Rebecca Peters03 (2) 

"Most of the cities and the county do their funding quarterly with Okoboji Tourism and so that obviously shifted pretty drastically beginning in March, so we needed to be able to be prepared to not lose money this year and so we did make some major shifts in our budget so we could sustain those losses."

Peters made her comments in a report she presented at Tuesday evening's Okoboji City Council meeting.