On March 13, the coronavirus pandemic reached Owensboro and hotels saw cancellations begin to mount.

“One hotel reported that they lost over $50,000 in future reservations,” Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a week later. “That’s in one day!”

More than five months later, the local and national hospitality industries are still struggling.

So, the CVB has launched “Operation Staycation” — incentives to get area residents to vacation in local hotels.

“People love a good deal and are ready to get out and have some new adventures,” Chris Gendek, the CVB’s destination services director, said this week. “A staycation in Owensboro is a great recipe for that.”

Dave Kirk, destination management director, said, “The latest Longwoods International Travel Sentiment study finds that 40% of people do not yet feel safe traveling outside their community. Being sensitive to that, we want to offer ways to feel like you’re on a vacation without actually having to leave Owensboro.”

During September, when someone books a room in any local hotel, they’ll get discounts to be used at The Brew Bridge, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum and Ole South Bar-B-Q.

“I can’t say thank you enough for our hotels and attractions working together to offer this opportunity for a staycation,” Gendek said. “We’re living in tough times, but we’re working together to move forward.”

He said the CVB is “collaborating with other partners, like restaurants and more attractions, to continue to offer these staycation packages with different amenities. We hope to announce additional staycation options soon.”

Recently, the Kentucky Department of Tourism announced the launch of its new campaign “Stay Close. Go Far.”

The marketing initiative is aimed at supporting local tourism partners, communities and businesses by producing inspiring content that reminds Kentuckians they do not have to travel far to experience all the beauty, history and adventures the state has to offer.

It quoted the Longwoods International study saying that 63% of travelers were planning a trip over the next six months centered on driving.

Mark Berry, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said, “By encouraging responsible in-state travel, we can help drive economic recovery to the local communities that rely heavily on tourism spending and employment.”

Calitri said recently that local hotels had an occupancy rate of 46% in July — down from 63% a year earlier.

He said the average hotel room rate in the city has dropped 18% since last summer.

The CVB has also been offering cheaper hotel rates to people who have been to or are going to Holiday World to attract them to spend the night in Owensboro.

Kirk said earlier that “families are looking at visiting smaller cities with a lot of amenities where they feel safe to get away for the weekend.”

He said that while schools use virtual learning, families can check into a hotel and enjoy themselves.

“Our hotels have good internet,” Kirk said.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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