Travel Salem staff provides visitors with trip planning and information. (Courtesy/Travel Salem)

Travel and tourism is one of the hardest-hit industries when people are asked to stay home and only travel when necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With the weather getting warmer, Travel Salem, the area’s tourism promotion agency, will be busy highlighting ways to safely enjoy our region. 

Tourism is one of our city's major industries. But most popular summer activities like the Art Fair & Festival, World Beat Festiva, and sporting events have been canceled. Travel Salem has had to pivot at every level to find new ways to remind people to put the city and its attractions on their list of "places to visit."

Travel Salem President and CEO, Angie Onyewuchi, said they are doing everything to keep the Mid-Valley top of mind. They’ve created a “Miss You Already” campaign with inspirational travel messaging and an anthem video thanking Salem area business and encouraging them to stay strong.

With meeting planners canceling and trying to reschedule hundreds of events, the staff is working tirelessly to provide updated COVID-19 information. They are also assisting people seeking uncrowded spaces to reconnect with family and friends.

Onyewuchi says Travel Salem is seeking ways to make the time at home a little more enjoyable. They created Salem Zoom Meeting backgrounds, and a 360-degree "virtual tour" in their online visitor's center. The Virtual Visitors Center includes a round-up of virtual experiences, videos, maps, and the digital launch of the  2020-2021 Official Visitors Guide. It features regional stories and trip planning inspiration using page-turning software.

Because Travel Salem is funded through the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), they do not accept donations. The TOT is paid by people who rent housing for less than 30 days, such as hotels or other lodgings. TOT is charged to travelers and collected by the hotel operator and placed in the city’s Cultural and Tourism Fund.

Travel Salem will be ready when the region moves through the planned phases to reopen businesses and events as the pandemic subsides. Onyewuchi said they are creating a recovery plan that will include a "Salem Revival" campaign and will focus on promoting repeat visitors. One strategy they are using is partnering on Chatbot technology that will reach 20 million consumers.

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing regularly for Salem Reporter.  During the quarantine, she will be connecting with Salem nonprofits.  Tell her about your nonprofit needs at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook.