Tourism in Idaho is big business. In 2017, folks traveling in the Gem State spent $3.7 billion dollars. But when COVID-19 started to hit the state, much of that travel stopped – both naturally due to traveler concerns, and legislatively, thanks to Gov. Brad Little’s Stay at Home ORder.
Each region of the state will face different challenges and opportunities in the months ahead. In the capital city, the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to bring back the tourism business – albeit slowly.
Safety a focus
“We’re going to roll out a new plan when the time is right for the safety of residents and incoming travel,” Boise CVB Executive Director Carrie Westergard said. “We’re hoping in June we can do a little messaging. Most of it is going to be in digital.”
Little’s reopening plan discourages travel in the current stage — stage two. The guidelines say anyone who enters the state from an area known to be a hotspot should self-isolate for 14 days. Starting with stage three, which could start this weekend, non-essential travel would be allowed and quarantine guidelines lifted.
For Boise, the CVB will focus its efforts on folks living close by.
“For the immediate future, our targets are local residents and regional drive traffic,” Westergard said. “We’ll be focusing on 300 miles from Boise. It’s going to be those most familiar who get past their fears and know something about a destination.”
She said the efforts will be measured, and that focus on the close-by areas in a 300-mile circle from Boise could go on for six months or more, depending on conditions and comfort level.
“People want a break and want to get out,” she said. “There will be that drive travel. In our Boise is Back campaign, we want to clearly show the safety measurements in place.”
CVB hopes to promote staycations
Staycations for local residents who might feel a little cooped up will also be a focus.
“Our whole focus on our marketing and PR is to get people back into hotels and businesses in town,” Westergard said. “We do know it’s going to start here locally — we are spending a lot of dollars to drive people back into feeling safe and knowing that Boise’s open. So that ultimately will help our hotels. Maybe people won’t be traveling far away now – maybe it’s that anniversary night or weddings or a date night.”
As things improve, the CVB will start to expand its efforts on some of the one-flight destinations in a slightly-wider 600 mile radius.
Westergard said Boise’s near-term economic future rests largely on people who live in the area.
“It’s been amazing seeing the support,” she said. “This is the time we will have to come out strong and keep supporting.”