Let’s admit it: many remain fearful as the US economy reopens. Fortunately, we are past the stage where people think our choice is between saving lives or the economy. The issue has matured: we are learning to balance the risk to health with the risk to livelihoods.
What remains underappreciated is that reopening may avert a mental health crisis as disastrous as the pandemic. Experts warn of shutdown-triggered depression, domestic violence and substance abuse, even suicide.
A study published this month in The Lancet shows people separated from daily life due to potential illnesses report adverse psychological effects even three years later. Boredom and isolation gave rise to fear and anxiety, especially among those quarantined for more than ten days. 60 percent of those isolated for any time reported symptoms of depression. In the three years following quarantine, PTSD in isolated populations was four times that of those who were unaffected. For most, quarantine was at best a miserable gray haze. Only 5 percent recalled a positive experience during quarantine unless prompted to do so.
As we shake off the shutdown, it is time to lift our eyes and imagine a brighter future where tourism is invigorated and reborn.
DMOs are already working with businesses and local government on the critical first step: implementing safety protocols and assuring residents and travelers that businesses are strictly safeguarding employee, visitor, and customer health. This means educating tourists and locals about their responsibilities, too.
Here are a few instructive examples:
Sedona | Safe.Clean.Ready invites businesses to adopt a list of safe practices voluntarily, at which point they are listed and promoted on SedonaSafeCleanReady.com. In the first ten days after launch, hundreds of businesses signed on.
Created by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau with the vocal support of the City of Sedona, the program accomplishes two goals:
- Assisting businesses with best safety practices while providing a platform for consumers to see the businesses committed to the guidelines
- Emphasizing the personal responsibility of visitors and residents
SedonaSafeCleanReady.com promotes eight safety practices residents and red rock country travelers should follow, such as customer separation, sanitation protocols and respiratory etiquette. The message is duplicated on posters at hundreds of participating businesses, whose promotional toolkit includes logo usage, window stickers and a listing on the website, aggressively promoted to residents and out-of-market visitors. Ads are running in the local newspapers and airwaves, and Sedona is dotted with roadway signs and A-frame messages contributed by the City.
Sedona’s social media highlight smiling employees practicing Safe.Clean.Ready protocols and the #SedonaStrong message. The Chamber, Sedona’s DMMO, also revised the SedonaCares.com visitor pledge to remind visitors of their role.
Tourism is a $1 billion annual industry in Sedona, with 10,000 jobs linked to the area’s approximately 3 million visitors. Without tourism, the economy of the sparsely populated region would quickly grind to a halt. Sedona|Safe.Clean.Ready unites locals, businesses and visitors in keeping Sedona safe and livelihoods intact.
Visit Salt Lake
Partnering with Respro Health and Safety, VisitSaltLake.com developed Prevention Guidelines and Best Practices that include formal third-party certification.
The general guidelines apply to all businesses, and additional guidance is categorized by industry. Practices are continually updated as the state moves through the Governor’s Phased Guidelines.
Businesses use the guidelines to create their own COVID Prevention Plan, which is reviewed by Respro Health & Safety for certification. The certification can then be promoted and shared with their customers.
Elsewhere, destinations are creating pledges to help promote business safety.