SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
Contact Andy Owens, [email protected], with any questions or ideas.
When something as routine as hurricane season hits, the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal Convention and Visitors Bureau knows to watch for the storm, advise local businesses, assess the damage afterward and move on.
COVID-19 presents a different challenge.
“With a storm, you know it’s coming, and you pray that it turns,” said Robb Wells, president and CEO of the convention and visitors bureau, “This is different in the sense that there’s no map for me to look at it to see how it’s making its way over. There’s a lot more unknown.”
Despite the new obstacles, Wells said the bureau now needs to shift focus from generating an outbound message that emphasizes tourism to an inbound message that concentrates on the local community.
“We focus on drawing visitors to our region, but we actually are a public service for locals because our neighbors make up the business community,” Wells said. “Our first focus is taking care of our local stakeholders and business owners — what do our people need to know, how can we retain our local charm so that when change happens, there’s not a loss of quality of experience.”
Wells said many businesses are asking when the pandemic will be over, how they can recover when it passes and what resources are available to assist with paying bills and covering losses.
With all the incoming questions, Wells said it is important for the convention and visitors bureau to help fight what he calls an “infodemic,” or an overload of information being passed around, some of which might not be true.
“We try to point people in the right direction with resources and information,” Wells said. “It’s just speculation, so we try to provide the best information that we can support and let the experts handle the rest.”
While the bureau continues to update its website and social media with new information about resources and businesses that are still open, Wells said a lot of the work will be done in the aftermath.
Once the pandemic passes and businesses open their doors again, it will be the job of the visitors bureau to drive markets back in and jump-start the economy, Wells said.
“Local businesses are facing a unique challenge here, but this is a chance to celebrate how resilient small businesses are and how resilient Beaufort-Port Royal is,” Wells said. “Our work is far from over. We want to be part of the solution at the end, not be a casualty.”i