The conversation in relation to the pandemic has shifted towards issues of re-opening, and to consideration of the economic challenges faced by businesses, communities, and different regions of the state. One of the largest economic hurdles New Mexico now faces is the impact that the COVID-19 virus has had on the tourism sector in New Mexico. Statewide, tourism numbers are down dramatically, and are likely to remain suppressed for some time. As hotels and restaurants continue to work with reduced capacity and social distancing restrictions, and more statewide events are cancelled, such as the Santa Fe Opera and Chamber Music Festival, tourism numbers will continue to be impacted. While many businesses rush to build their online presence and emphasize items that can be marketed remotely, those products and services that depend on tourism seem be facing fewer options in a critically contracting tourist industry.
However, there is another side to the tourism story: regional, driving-based tourism may still prosper, as low gas prices and a willingness to travel locally in personal vehicles may encourage travel for many this summer. New Mexico businesses and communities can respond to this shift by targeting travelers from nearby states and promoting outdoor activities or scenic driving routes. Local services can be expanded to include the amenities needed to support these individualized, outdoor activities, such as picnic supplies, thermoses of coffee, boxed meals, and self-guided “niche” tours.
Businesses can also work together to encourage social distancing and simultaneously leverage a more “distributed” shopping experience to advantage. Small shops can provide attractive outside seating in “waiting areas” that offer water or lemonade and also showcase products or provide incentives. Communities can consider creating small, open-market settings in public spaces that provide small, pop-up style venues for businesses on a limited or rotating schedule. This accommodation to best practices during the pandemic can build a positive business climate overall by creating interesting alternatives to the traditional “store to store” shopping atmosphere, alternatives that may enable greater customer engagement and generate higher levels of interest, loyalty, and repeat sales.
For more discussion and ideas about sustaining your business and the local economy during the pandemic, register for the free webinar this Thursday 14 May at 2:15 – 3:15 p.m. “Beyond Bricks and Mortar: Alternatives to the Traditional Building/Customer Relationship,” hosted by the New Mexico Economic Development Department and New Mexico Main Street. An additional video conference, “Beat the Virus” Roundtable, will be held Friday 15 May, 10:15 – 11:45. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for login details.
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