Tourism has Forever Changed
By: Jeremy Morris
A sit-down with Visit Wheeling, WV Director Frank O’Brien
Crystal balls don’t actually exist. However, it doesn’t take a soothsayer to predict that many aspects of life will never be the same in a post-COVID-19 world. Travel and tourism are likely one of those aspects of our life that will be forever be impacted by this pandemic.
While we will someday move about the globe just as we once did, how we do so, and the considerations we take beforehand will have changed. Those considerations weigh on the mind of guys like Frank O’Brien, executive director of the Wheeling CVB.
“We can’t be sure when this will end or how it will have changed tourism,” says O’Brien, “for now it is imperative for the CVB to make sure that the local hotels, restaurants, and small business owners understand there will be new expectations held by the traveling public. Likewise, we have to drive the message to visitors that this is a safe community to visit.”
O’Brien is the type of guy that prefers to lighten the stress of work with humor and has a great outlook on the task at hand, “from a tourism perspective there is one silver lining in that every community in the country was impacted equally. Whether its Wheeling, West Virginia or Las Vegas, Nevada we have all been shut down to zero, starting from scratch again.”
Striving to Keep You Safe
While authenticity has been the buzzword in the tourism industry for the last decade, you can bet your favorite facemask that hygiene will be the buzzword for the foreseeable future, perhaps even after vaccines and booster shots tame the virus.
Hotels, restaurants, and venues will continue to be scrutinized for their hygiene as visitors begin to travel more frequently, and communities have to be prepared for the moving target of expectations. Wheeling is fortunate to have outstanding leadership in the hospitality industry.
“When you look at the composition of our CVB’s Board of Directors, we get to lean upon the experience of some great individuals and their organizations to help prepare our community for how to deal with a return of visitors,” says O’Brien.
Oglebay Park has been at the forefront of training recreation professionals for decades, connecting our community to professionals and venues across the country.
The locally owned Hampton Inn Wheeling has twice been named Best Hampton Inn in the world, connecting us to the hygiene information of a worldwide hotel brand.
Cabela’s is an innovative leader in the retail sector which connects us to leading hygiene trends in that marketplace.
The Delaware North Corporation, which owns Wheeling Racetrack and Casino, is an international leader in hospitality, entertainment, and gaming tackling this issue on multiple continents.
“This is new territory for everyone,” O’Brien adds, “but we are connected to the best organizations in the hospitality industry anywhere in the world and that says a lot for a small town like Wheeling. I feel confident we are ready for families and business travelers to return when they are ready.”
While Wheeling is prepared for small-sized groups and business travelers, O’Brien admits that large festivals and concerts are likely months away. “We hope to get people back in the Capitol Theatre seats, WesBanco Arena and at Heritage Port as soon as it becomes safe to do so, but that looks unlikely before 2021,” he says.
Wheeling is a Safer Choice in COVID Times.
Traveling these days is risk management. It is looking at the map of available options for vacations or overnights when traveling for business and deciding which communities can offer you the safety and the experiences you desire. Wheeling can deliver.
Wheeling is a small community with a low density population that has consistently had few cases of COVID throughout the pandemic. Indoor and outdoor dining opened earlier this summer, and Wheeling restaurants are ready to serve you with spacious seating and masked waitstaff. As of July 7th, Governor Jim Justice issued a statewide indoor mask order, so pack your mask and stay in compliance while you visit, please.
And wash those hands!
How to plan your trip?
The Wheeling CVB has made planning your trip really easy, just go to the website and find the red bar located at the top. There you will find our social distancing guide, lists of itineraries, and an open restaurants guide.