Whether you’ve been self-quarantined for months out of an abundance of caution, or think the whole pandemic response has been one big mess of overreaction, you’re probably more than ready to get back out there.
States are reopening, but also encouraging a continuation of social distancing – and there’s no better place to do that than in the great outdoors!
Can you travel and still stay safe? Some tourism bureaus are beginning to say “YES!” And they think their states are the ideal place to do it.
Soooo over it…
Being isolated may be the last thing we all want to do on our next vacation, but it’s the unfortunate current reality of travel – at least in the short-term.
Sure, we’d love to go to museums and concerts and amusement parks this summer – or, geez, Europe! — it’s the American way.
But due to pandemic panic, the U.S. travel industry has lost nearly 120 billion dollars in the last two months.
It’s not just the bigwigs like cruise lines and airlines – small towns are suffering too.
These are not normal times, and we’re forced to take what we can get – and do what we’re “allowed” to do depending on each state’s phase of reopening.
States and localities are banking on the fact that most Americans are unsure enough about resuming their normal travel activities and will be looking for a “safer” way to vacation this year.
While public transportation and crowded tourist traps are likely to suffer for a great deal longer, rural destinations are shouting a big “woohoo!” Now is their time to shine.
Enter the spin-zone
There’s a reason there are so many expressions about “looking for the silver lining” or “making lemonade out of lemons.”
Because if we don’t find a way to spin circumstances in a positive way when things go south, we’re not going to get too far in life.
Politicians are great at this. So are advertising and marketing firms.
And they’re working to turn the Coronavirus crisis into a profitable enterprise for states by drawing tourists in with promises of “safety” and “isolation.”
Hiking, rock climbing, camping, scenic drives and picnics (with under ten people, of course) are being touted as the answer to our wanderlust right now.
Their advertisements and websites are playing up on the fear by saying these are the best things to do – in their state, of course – in order to remain safe and as far away from other humans as possible.
They’re posting beautiful photos of their natural resources – the perfect cure for cabin fever.
A secluded trail depicting a lone hiker, a fisherman on the banks of a peaceful lake – not another soul in sight.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, West Virginia’s ad campaign features a single climber on a rock face with the tagline, “Back to normal seems like an uphill climb.” Clever.
In West Virginia, they claim “[the]feeling of freedom instantly returns in wide-open spaces.” We want our freedom – and “instantly” sounds about right.
“Isolated, and empty” are no longer words that send chills up your spine — once reserved for dark parking lots and back-alleys.
In our new world – a world in which we have to tweak our travel plans — these words soothe us. And states are building their new ad campaigns around making us feel safe… no crowds in sight.
Along the same lines, Travel Wyoming’s ad campaign shows panoramic views of nature, playing on our need to remain isolated. “We’ve all been feeling a little empty…Maybe a little emptiness is what we need.”
But other state Bureaus of Tourism don’t want to turn into the skid on this one.
While emphasizing their ability to fully meet our social distancing needs, states like Wisconsin are using peaceful images of their natural assets with a more uplifting message.
Relax, renew, refresh. “Put down the Cheetos; turn off Netflix and get your butt out to one of our pristine lakes.”
The ones avoiding any overt mention of the whole crisis are ramping-up their ad buys and filling shots of sweeping scenery with dialogue promising fresh air, crystal-blue waters, and starry nights.
All things that bring to mind health and well-being.
And other states and localities are finding creative ways to bring in tourists who are sick to death of Cheetos and Netflix.
Creativity In a Time of Corona
In the heartland, those perfect little covered-bridge communities are putting their best foot forward by splashing their websites with photos of their local treasures, beckoning us to drive through.
Businesses may be closed a while longer, but there are plenty of other things they want us to see.
Road trip scavenger hunts, complete with printable checklists for kids, are popping up online for that Sunday drive you’ve been meaning to take.
And while you’re in town, your wife will see a darling little antique shop (still closed, ugh) that will stay burned in her memory. You’ll come back once you see how great this place is. She’ll make you.
Others are holding outdoor “social distancing walking tours.” Get some fresh air and see the historic sites of our little town.
And don’t worry about getting too close to your fellow tour-mates.
Some towns, like Petersburg, Virginia, have designated that walking tour guides carry measuring tapes or even 6-foot lengths of PVC pipe to keep people separated.
Kind of reminds me of being in kindergarten and we had to hold onto a loop in a rope while walking down the hallway. They were spaced just far enough apart to avoid any kicking or hair-pulling. What was old is new again.
Whether states are playing into fear or trying to distract us from it, either side of the spin is probably going to work.
They know if we visit there – because we’ll visit just about anywhere right now – we’ll be so charmed by their offerings that we’ll return again and again when we can shop and eat and spend our money.
Americans are tired of sitting at home, but not so tired of home that we’d rather be sitting in a hospital.
We’re sick of our elected officials telling us we have to stay home, and we’re sick enough of staying at home to do whatever it takes to get away – while avoiding that hospital, of course.
Americans are a mixed bag of feelings and opinions on this whole mess. But, like it or not, it’s a mess we’re all going to have to deal with for a while longer.
So if you’re ready to get back on the road (and who isn’t?), checking out some of these rural destinations may be the perfect thing.
They’re spending big bucks to draw you in and, hey, it’s better than Cheetos and Netflix for a soul that’s hungry for travel.