Going 'green' and the outlook for visitation

– by Fritz Smith, HVAB President and CEO

Centre County’s move into green was welcome news. We are not out of the woods yet with regard to health concerns related to COVID-19. However, the re-opening of businesses, even with restrictions in place, is another step forward in an eventual return to normal. Till then, our hard-hit restaurants, retail shops, lodging facilities and attractions are navigating a host of new operating procedures and implementing enhanced safety standards all designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep customers safe.

Operating in green still poses many unanswered questions. How long can certain businesses operate at 50 percent capacity? How quickly will customers return? What will their experience be like in a time of social distancing and other restrictions? Given the economic importance of travel and tourism to our local economy, what does “green” mean for the prospects of visitation this summer?

The latter question is still somewhat a “wait and see” scenario, with the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau’s outbound destination marketing campaign on hold for a few more weeks.

We are starting to witness some good news with regard to tournament activity after a slew of spring and early summer cancellations. The 2020 Miller High Life Softball Tournament will be held July 3-5 at Hess and Oak Hall fields, followed by the 2020 ASA Girls Fast Pitch Softball Tournament July 10-12. Additionally, several basketball and wrestling organizations are interested in potentially hosting their tournaments here this fall and winter. The HVAB continues to work with other groups considering holding events in Centre County in the coming months. Looking ahead to 2021, Happy Valley is on the radar of many athletic tournament organizers. These activities generate room nights in our hotels and bring patrons to our restaurants.

It is encouraging to see – and the HVAB is actively promoting – the care that our businesses are taking to ensure the health and safety of all of their customers.

Fritz Smith, President and CEO, The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau

As is the case with overall economic recovery, the resumption of leisure travel will occur gradually. Most studies, including travel sentiment surveys from the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and travel research firm Longwoods International, show that the expected timeframes for travel generally to more robustly resume is spring 2021.

As for this summer, there is growing optimism about the prospects of a level of travel over the next six weeks. Residents and visitors alike are starting to test the waters of their comfort level visiting restaurants and attractions. Those who do travel will stay close to home, and will closely weigh the risk/reward of doing so based on their own personal circumstances. Visitors will seek out as much information as possible about the safety of the destination they visit and the establishments they plan to frequent. Cleanliness and distancing protocols must be evident. Marketing messaging should give consumers a sense of security and control where possible.

Mindset studies also show that consumer expectations will remain high post-COVID-19 as well. Even when restrictions are lifted, consumers are likely to continue to take precautions, and some habits developed during quarantine will continue.

It is encouraging to see – and the HVAB is actively promoting – the care that our businesses are taking to ensure the health and safety of all of their customers. Establishments in Happy Valley take safety and overall guest experience seriously. Our attractions tell us that they have already hosted visitors looking for relief from months of isolation, who chose Centre County because they believe it to be a safe place to visit, and a familiar place to many. We are confident that visitors can stay happy and healthy in Moshannon Valley, Bald Eagle Valley, Penns Valley, Nittany Valley and all the parts of this great place that we happily call home and want to show off to visitors. As the official destination marketing organization for Centre County and on behalf of the hospitality members we serve, we are ready when they are.

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The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau cannot stress enough that we believe in responsible and safe travel. We do encourage visitors planning business or leisure travel to Happy Valley to refer to the following resources for reliable information and updates regarding COVID-19. Please keep in mind that some articles on this blog were written in a different age pre-virus. Please refer to the individual business websites for current status and hours available. HVAB links to business and other appropriate pages at every opportunity.