Visit Gahanna: CVB tasked with keeping businesses booming amid pandemic

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Visit Gahanna (Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau), 167 Mill St. in Gahanna

The Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau and city of Gahanna have been trying different ways to attract visitors and residents to traditional events, while working under the constraints of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“In a normal year, we would be hosting events such as Herb Day, Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival, Pies in the Park, and Holiday Lights to name a few,” said Lori Kappes, executive director of the CVB, also known as Visit Gahanna. “Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were unable to host those events in person this year. Instead, we had to ensure the safety of visitors and guests by making some of our events virtual on social-media platforms.”

Even the Santa Race 5K at Creekside isn’t coming to town Dec. 5. The Visit Gahanna event is being held virtually.

“We also had to change our focus a bit when it became clear that people weren’t traveling and our local businesses needed our help,” Kappes said. “We had to be creative and engage area residents in ways that we hadn’t before.”

A “Picnic in the Park” campaign encouraged people to get carryout from local establishments and take it to a park. 

“We pushed activities that could be done safely and outdoors like the Gahanna Scavenger Hunt and Geocaching,” Kappes said. “All the while, we were still trying to appeal to out-of-town guests so that they would consider Gahanna as a travel destination when they felt safe enough to travel.”

Visit Gahanna also created a video that highlights the efforts restaurants and shops are taking to sanitize their establishments to ensure safe environments for patrons. The video can be seen at youtube.com/watch?v=gGVkyWLKYEQ&t=9s

“Currently, we are planning holiday activities and hoping they will still be allowed to happen,” Kappes said. “We will definitely be featuring a Holiday Scavenger Hunt in the Creekside District and distributing prizes to all participants.”

She said planning is underway for the 2021 Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival, with the realization it likely will have a different look than in the past. 

Outside the box

Gahanna Mayor Laurie Jadwin said 2020 continues to be a year that presents opportunities for everyone to “think outside the box” and to find new ways to do business during the pandemic.  

“There is no question that COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on the tourism and hospitality industries, and Gahanna has not been immune to that impact,” said Jadwin, who was Visit Gahanna executive director before becoming mayor in January.  “Reductions in travelers, limited seating capacities in restaurants and stay-at-home orders and advisories have directly impacted our local hotels, restaurants and shops.”

She said the cancellation of annual events and activities that typically draw large crowds to the Creekside District added to reductions in foot traffic for businesses.

Implementation of the Creekside Outdoor Refreshment Area on Oct. 21 proved to be an immediate boost for businesses in the district, Jadwin said. 

“Many participating restaurants created new, streamlined ordering processes that allowed customers to order a beverage without having to go inside of the establishment, making it easier for folks to purchase a beverage and then walk around the area, while maintaining social distancing,” she said.

Jadwin said Kappes and her team continue to find ways to present activities and promotions that patrons can enjoy in a safe environment.  

Similarly, she said, the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce recently presented a “COVID-version” of its long-running “Taste of Gahanna.”  

“Rather than hold an event with dozens of restaurants and hundreds of guests in attendance, the Chamber partnered with its restaurant members to sell a package of gift cards at a discounted rate, helping to drive business to area restaurants,” she said.

Jadwin said the Gahanna Parks & Recreation team also transitioned the Creepside Festival into a unique drive-thru event, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy a spooky experience from their cars. She said the two-day event was a sellout and received such overwhelmingly positive feedback that it’s likely to return next year with or without the pandemic.

“I am both proud and grateful for the way our team here at the city, our community partner organizations and our local business community have all taken a positive approach to devising new ways to enjoy traditional things,” Jadwin said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla