Destination Grandview reorients role during COVID-19 pandemic

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

A convention-and-visitors bureau routinely tailors its messaging and activity to what the market is calling for.

That has been particularly true during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in a state-ordered closing of nonessential businesses and prompted many people to stay home.

"We definitely saw an impact on business travel from the pandemic," Destination Grandview executive director Brian Cheek said. "Business travel has not come back yet, and that had an impact on the hotels at Grandview Yard."

Guests gather Aug. 11 around the bar at Cleaver, 1099 W. First Ave. in Grandview Heights. Destination Grandview has created a staycation blog post promoting local hotels, dining and shopping.

After the lockdown was lifted, weddings began being held at the Yard's Grand Event Center again, he said.

"That brings a lot of two-night hotel stays from people attending a wedding," Cheek said.

During the initial stages of the pandemic, Destination Grandview created and posted on its website a list of restaurants offering carryout and takeaway meals, he said.

"(We were) encouraging safety while still promoting dining locally in Grandview Heights," Cheek said. "We also were highlighting through social media and Instagram the local businesses that were creating masks," he said. "We also promoted all of the virtual offerings our local businesses were creating, whether it be cocktail classes, cocktail kits or art openings, online."

As businesses, restaurants, stores and salons began to reopen, Destination Grandview used its social-media platforms to promote them, Cheek said. 

"As the lockdown was lifting to allow gathering and dining out, we created a list of the many restaurants offering patio dining in Grandview Heights while still listing restaurants that were offering takeout, as well, for those who weren't ready to dine in public," he said.

Given that most people still are hesitant to travel widely, Cheek said, Destination Grandview created a staycation blog post promoting local hotels, dining and shopping.

"The market we're targeting is people who are driving in from maybe a two- or three-hour radius," he said. "Grandview Heights is conveniently located close to downtown Columbus and attractions that people may come to town to visit like the Columbus Zoo or Franklin Park Conservatory."

Grandview has the advantage of "the power of proximity," Cheek said. "We're close to downtown, the Arena District, the (Ohio State University) campus and the major highways. It's a big plus for us."

As the holiday season approaches, Destination Grandview will be working with other local organizations, including the Grandview Parks and Recreation Department, the Grandview Heights Public Library, the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership and Grandview Yard to mutually promote each other's seasonal events and offerings from merchants to encourage shopping and dining in Grandview Heights, Cheek said.

"Someone who comes to the holiday tree-lighting that parks and rec holds might also take some time to shop at some of our stores or eat at one of our restaurants," he said.

Looking ahead to 2021, "we plan to remain focused on all of the markets we have in the past," Cheek said. "We know these travel segments will come back in waves."

At the beginning of 2020, Destination Grandview created a new visitors guide to promote traveling to the city.

That publication also will serve as a guide for families and businesses moving to Grandview and includes a list of resources for city services and membership information about the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership, he said.

"We hope to revisit our marketing plan each quarter in 2021 to adjust our plans in response to what market segments begin to return and when," Cheek said.

Destination Grandview is funded through a portion of the 10 % bed tax collected from the two hotels at Grandview Yard, said Megan Miller, Grandview's finance director.

Forty percent of the money collected from the bed tax goes to Franklin County, she said. The remaining 60% goes to Grandview, Miller said.

Of that revenue, 50% is used for parks and recreation improvements, she said. The remainder is divided equally between Destination Grandview and the city's general fund.

"The bed tax definitely took a hit this year," Miller said. 

Through mid-October, the bed tax has generated $191,000, she said. 

"At the same point last year, we had collected $260,000," she said.

The monthly bed-tax revenue hit its low point in May but has been increasing slowly since then, she said.

The shortfall has resulted in postponing some minor parks and rec projects that had been planned for 2020, including building a new concession stand at McKinley Field and repainting the municipal pool, Miller said. 

Bed-tax funds would have been used to pay pool and park bonds, and the money for those expenses will have to come from general revenues, she said.

Destination Grandview had to cut its 2020 budget, which originally had been set at $144,000, Cheek said.

As a result, the CVB reduced its print and digital advertising and suspended all travel for national tradeshows for the remainder of the year, he said. It also cut its financial participation in some projects coordinated by statewide marketing cooperatives.

"We retained our membership in the (cooperatives)," Cheek said. "We just didn't participate in everything they did this year."

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