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Destination Cleveland Campaign Encourages Safe Reopening, Staycations

Destination Cleveland is launching a campaign to aid local businesses and encourage safe practices as the economy reopens.

The “Undefeated” campaign will offer resources to local businesses, including guidance on safe practices and ways to order supplies such as thermometers and hand sanitizer. Businesses must agree to be part of the initiative and display visuals in storefronts encouraging healthy behavior.

The goal is to help people feel safe visiting participating businesses, said Destination Cleveland President and CEO David Gilbert.

“We need to be community-focused and start with our residents before we invite travelers back,” Gilbert said.

The guidelines in the Undefeated campaign were developed with help from local partners, including the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, MetroHealth System, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. But they aren’t specific to any one individual business’ needs, said Destination Cleveland spokesperson Emily Lauer.

“They are general guidelines across the board,” Lauer said. “Our travel and tourism partners span lots of different types of businesses, so they are a general set that then we ask them to apply as they can, as practical.”

Participating businesses also will receive 50 “Clean Kits,” which can be provided to patrons, with a disposable mask, hand sanitizer packets and safe practices tips. Destination Cleveland will promote participating businesses online and through its app.

The coronavirus has had a dramatic negative impact on the hospitality industry, Gilbert said. Typically, hotels would have an occupancy rate of around 60 percent at the start of summer, he said, but current hotel occupancy is closer to 10 percent.

“It was almost like a tsunami wave,” Gilbert said. “It took the first hit and the biggest hit, because the types of businesses that are represented in the industry almost immediately shut down.”

Cuyahoga County is committing $700,000 from its federal CARES Act allogation to help fund the Undefeated initiative, though the distribution needs the approval of the county council. If approved, the money would cover an estimated 300,000 Clean Kits, according to Destination Cleveland.

“We have to do this, otherwise we won’t have much of an economy to reopen,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish on Wednesday. “The hospitality industry, restaurants and hotels, are major economic drivers for our county. We know that COVID-19 has harmed that industry.”

Destination Cleveland is also partnering with the city to promote safe practices as businesses reopen.

“Our focus in Cleveland is, how do we do it right? Not only in terms of the business side, but how do we do it right in terms of preventing spread or creating a new spike?” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said. “We are implementing strategies, doing things that really require us to double down on things that are educational and preventive.”

The first phase of the initiative, which is focused mostly online, will run through June, calling on local businesses to become "Clean Committed" by following standardized cleaning practices.

“What we really wanted was a movement that people are going to make public commitments, and that we know it’s community-wide,” Gilbert said.

The second phase, tentatively set for July, will promote activities such as “staycations” – encouraging Clevelanders to explore the city, rather than traveling elsewhere this summer.

The third phase, set to begin in August, will shift focus to outside populations, promoting travel to the Cleveland area as a potential road trip with friends and family.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to spend our dollars asking people to come here when they’re not ready,” Gilbert said.

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