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Ontario County tourism, hospitality industry has new source for reopening

The Finger Lakes Visitors Connection has produced an online Digital Recovery Toolkit to help small businesses understand and put in place the reopening guidelines for the economy.

The Toolkit was designed as a resource center for the tourism industry to reopen, restart and reinvent their businesses in tandem with the easing and lifting of governmental stay-at-home and business restriction orders.

Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, with Denise Chaapel from the Canandaigua Downtown Business Improvement District and Kathy Rayburn from the Victor Local Development Corp., teamed to help local tourism and hospitality businesses navigate the intricacies of reopening, officials said.

The Rapid, Response, Recovery Team created an Industry Resource Center on the VisitFingerLakes.com website to aggregate, clarify ad simplify all of the advisements coming from the state government and tourism officials. The site includes templates for safe reopening, connection to NY Forward, an idea sheet, employer obligations, documents on customer perceptions and sector and subsectors of information.

Officials said it was meant to be an “idea bank of creative solutions to meet requirements to reopen.”

In April, Finger Lakes Visitors Connection surveyed the Ontario County tourism industry to gauge the sentiment of the industry. As a result, the tourism bureau began to hold industry segment Zoom calls to give each sector of the industry a chance to share challenges and offer assistance to each other, and more than 100 tourism “thought leaders” came together to create the Digital Toolkit.

Valerie Knoblauch

Valerie Knoblauch

“I wanted to ensure that we weren’t running around like chickens with our heads cut off, duplicating efforts and accentuating our frustrations,” said Valerie Knoblauch, president and CEO of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, of the plan to pull the tourism sector together. “I knew we could work together – I knew we’d be stronger together.”

The Digital Toolkit was designed to curate, interpret and simplify all the advisements that were coming from various tourism sector associations, and make them easier to understand and accessible for anyone looking for guidance on how to open in the region.

Ontario County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Marren and Interim County Administrator Brian Young had asked the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection team to help with the reopening plan for the county.

“These were the people who stood up as leaders and wanted to work with us to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever. Over 150 thought leaders from 6 counties, along with business representatives of Monroe, Seneca and Schuyler (counties) and local town and city officials, joined us as we crafted the Digital Recovery Toolkit,” Knoblauch said.

Knoblauch also worked with Geneva City Manager Sage Gerling to share resources via Ontario County’s Digital Recovery Toolkit and offer resources to help businesses reopen. She recently took part in the city’s livestream topic Reopening Businesses.

“The Ontario County tourism industry is strong and resilient, and so is the region,” Knoblauch said. “They’ve worked diligently to find creative ways to serve the public, they’ve banded together and they have been open to new ideas and new norms. We are proud of our industry, our county officials and the locals who have been patiently waiting for our industry to reopen. We are so proud to call Ontario County home.”

vspicer@bridgetowermedia.com / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

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