FROM THE DESK OF...Jeff Hettrick, Executive Director
The energy on the streets in Ottawa has dramatically increased with the sudden summer weather and the state easing into phase 3 of the Reopen Illinois plan. Our bars and restaurants have the ability to offer outdoor seating to a limited degree, and retailers are allowed to reopen their facilities with appropriate safety guidelines. On Friday, the local state parks held their reopening including use of the trails. Our community has held together, supported each other and is continuing to move forward.
The City of Ottawa deserves our thanks for working with the business owners to offer new options for help. There are several street closures to allow additional restaurant outside seating. Mayor Dan Aussem has published a letter, under the emergency order (sent out last week), which outlines road closures, parking restrictions and the ability to use some city property to create safe seating areas. Ottawa has posted the changes and at the bottom of their page is a link to a map to help out.
The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Visitors Center have partnered to work on messaging for the safe reopening of our businesses. The School of Hospitality Leadership at DePaul University expects to see a lot of people traveling regionally, driving places and not having to go through the process of flying. Destinations in close proximity, within a two-hour drive range for day trips and a four-hour range for overnight trips, will be the most popular. A survey recently commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found 68% feel safest when traveling in their car. Nearly one-third said they would be willing to drive up to 300 miles to reach their vacation destination.
The Chamber, the City and the Ottawa Visitors Center encourage motels, restaurants, museums, retailers and other attractions to pledge to keep “socially responsible” health and cleanliness measures top of mind for both visitors and employees. The best practice suggestion from our video conferences is to prominently display that info on websites and other communications. The city has some posters printed for display to draw customers’ attention to the hard work taken to continually clean and disinfect. Unlike some places that have hurtled toward a rapid reopening with a patchwork of measures, Ottawa wants to be viewed as an intelligent destination that visitors can trust.
If you would like more information and segment specific tips, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has posted a massive amount of information on their website.