Supporting the Tourism Industry from Lockdown to Reopening, with Rachel Laber Pulvino

Episode 192

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Rachel Laber Pulvino is a Rochester native who has the privilege of promoting her hometown on a daily basis as the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. In this role, Rachel is regularly reaching out to regional, national, and international media to share Rochester’s story, and help media and visitors alike discover the activities and attractions that make Rochester an ideal destination. Raised in Rochester, Rachel attended SUNY Geneseo, where she earned a B.A. in Communication and continued on to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University for graduate school, where she earned an M.S. in Public Relations. Rachel is an active member of the Public Relations Society of America, Rochester Chapter, currently serving on the board, while also volunteering on the programming and PRism award committees. She volunteers her time for the SUNY Geneseo Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Rochester. Rachel is a proud resident of the City of Rochester where she resides with her husband, Rich Pulvino. When she’s not playing tour guide to visiting travel writers on the weekend, you can find Rachel visiting wineries in the Finger Lakes, at arts and cultural performance, or at Wegmans. Destination on the Left is joined by Rachel Laber Pulvino, the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. She joins Destination on the Left again to talk about what the Visit Rochester team is doing to support their tourism industry partners throughout the pandemic. Rachel originally appeared on Episode #57, where she talked about driving tourism in Rochester, NY through creativity and collaboration. She is here to expand on that and talk about the different programs and response measures her team has taken over the past four months.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How Visit Rochester pivoted to help the community respond to the pandemic
  • The development of Visit Rochester’s digital content strategy for the local market
  • The ROC acronym and how Visit Rochester has used it to navigate the pandemic
  • How Visit Rochester began to create new programs after learning that the pandemic was going to be a long-fought battle
  • What Visit Rochester did to help local businesses in the community thrive during the reopening phase
  • How the ROC Ready Promise is providing a sense of safety to visitors in the reopening phase
  • The creation and execution of Visit Rochester’s Rediscover Rochester campaign

A Lifeline for the Community

Rachel Laber Pulvino is the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. She joins Destination on the Left again to talk about what the Visit Rochester team is doing to support their tourism industry partners through the pandemic. Rachel originally appeared on Episode #57, where she talked about driving tourism in Rochester, NY through creativity and collaboration. She is here to expand on that and talk about the different programs and response measures her team has taken over the past four months. From the initial lockdown to the reopening phase, Visit Rochester has remained nimble throughout. This is a look into the challenges they faced during quarantine, and how they overcame them to continue supporting the industry.

Visit Rochester’s Massive Pivot

When the stay-at-home order first went into effect back in March, Rachel and her team had to act swiftly. They began meeting and ideating daily to try and plan for what might be coming down the pipeline, and fight or flight took over. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, Rachel and her team approached the problem as realists, identifying what challenges were on the horizon, and what they could do to support their stakeholders at that moment. Visit Rochester pivoted right away, and within 24 hours, they shifted their efforts from marketing Rochester to outsiders to speaking directly to their local audience.

Knowledge is Power

Visit Rochester dedicated itself to promoting local businesses. They helped organize and roll out virtual events that their attraction partners were putting together. And ultimately, they became a conduit of information. Rachel and her team were fiercely on top of all developments in government regulation and response, and they made sure their partners were informed so they could plan their next moves accordingly. It inspired a powerful digital content strategy that is still driving traffic for all of their partners today, and it took the organization’s creative and collaborative function to an entirely new level.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:17 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with another passionate guest, Rachel Labour director of market communications and public relations for visit Rochester. Rachel first joined me on this show for episode 57, to share her insights on creativity and collaboration with all of you. I asked Rachel to join us again, to talk about what her team at visit Rochester has been doing to support their tourism industry partners through the pandemic. In our conversation, Rachel walks us through the different programs and responses that her organization has made over the last four months from the beginning days of the pandemic, through the quarantine and into the reopening phase. This is a snapshot into this moment, as we all know, things change rapidly, and I know visit Rochester will remain nimble and flexible to continue to support the industry a little more about Rachel.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:14 She is a Rochester New York native who has the privilege of promoting her hometown on a daily basis. Rachel attended SUNY Geneseo, where she earned a bachelor’s in arts and communications and continued on to the SSI new house school of public communications at Syracuse university for graduate school, where she earned an ms in public relations. Rachel is an active member of the public relations society of America, Rochester chapter. He also volunteers her time for the SUNY Geneseo alumni association, board of directors, as well as big brothers, big sisters, greater Rochester. Rachel is a proud resident of the city of Rochester, where she resides with her husband, rich Paul Vino. I know you are going to gain a lot of ideas from this interview, but first I want to share this important information with you, Rachel, thank you so much for coming back on to destination on the left to share your thoughts and your insights with us today.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:13 Thank you so much, Nicole. It’s so great to reconnect with you. Yeah. And what I’m really thankful for is that you are willing to share your story and your experience through this, uh, current, uh, pandemic that we are all experiencing together and really what you have been doing with visit Rochester and your team at visit Rochester to, to support the industry. Um, so what I’d love to do is just kind of start at the beginning. You know, that, that second week in March, we’re in New York state and it’s when our governor ordered a stay at home order. And we all had a, literally packed up our desks and move home with not really sure what was happening next. And I’m curious, like what kinds of things were happening

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 03:00 For you and your team at visit Rochester? What kinds of things were you thinking about and, and what kinds of moves were you making real early in this?

Nicole Mahoney: 03:10 You know, it’s interesting to think back to those

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 03:13 That, that first two weeks in March. And it’s like, I think I will remember every single day of those first two weeks for, you know, for a long time, because it’s so much transpired and, uh, you know, at visit Rochester. So being, uh, the tourism promotion agency for Monarch County, we really started to keep, you know, to hear more about the coronavirus and, and, um, COVID-19, um, towards the end of February. But, and at the time, you know, I even did a media interview asking, what do you think the impact is going to be in at the time, it was really still more of an international issue. It really was not something that we were thinking about here in the U S especially as it related to travel, but, you know, within a few weeks, it really the situation to say things escalated quickly sounds like a dramatic understatement now, but it really did change very quickly.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 04:03 So yes, I’m at visit Rochester. We started thinking and meeting daily on the first couple of weeks of March to, to anticipate what could be coming down the horizon as a related to, you know, any kind of quarantine or people having to stay home. And then beginning that second week of March, we like so many others, as you said, packed up our offices and headed home. Um, but you know, I think for those of us in the destination marketing world, something like COVID, which of course we’re still very much in coronavirus. You know, we’re still very much living in and working through this pandemic. So by no means, do I want to say that we’re past this, but thinking back, you know, you kind of had, when everything first started, we had to kind of go into fight or flight mode, right? You could either just put your head in the sand and say, this is absolutely terrible for the travel industry. How are we going to ever go beyond this? Or you can say, okay, these are all the limitations. These are the challenges. These are the very real and scary risks that are out there, but what can we do? How can we be of service to our various stakeholders right now? And so for us at visit Rochester, we really pivoted right away like so many other organizations.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:12 And we went literally within

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 05:14 24 hours, we went from being an organization who primarily focused on communicating and marketing Rochester to people outside of our community. We’ve pivoted to talking directly to our local audience. You know, we have more than 425 member businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry. And we immediately went into what can we do to best support our partners? How can we help these businesses who are literally struggling to keep their doors doors open right now? How can we best support them? So we really pivoted to, um, you know, any of our restaurant partners that were offering takeout, we were pushing that out to a local audience. We, um, helped organize and push out any virtual tours or programming or events that our museum, uh, and attraction partners were doing. And we really became a conduit of information and, and took, you know, we listened every single day to governor Pomos daily remarks and addresses his infamous PowerPoints. And we would regurgitate that information back to our partners. We, you know, we kept our ears to the ground of any news and updates happening on a federal level, state level, local level. And we really became, you know, we knew that knowledge was power. So those are some of the ways that we really supported. And as I said, quickly changed how we function as an organization to support our local partners and really become a source of information for a local audience.

Speaker 4: 06:35 I think that’s a really great point. I love that you use that phrase, knowledge is power, and

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 06:40 Certainly in this time, um, you know, the more information we have, I think the, uh, I hate to use this word easy, cause it’s nothing about this as easy, but you know, it, it’s a little bit easier, I guess, to make decisions and try to decide on a direction and the information is changing so quickly every day that the quicker you can get the information the better. Um, I, I’m curious about just how, you know, you talked about collecting all the information about the, you know, the takeout service or the virtual events. And, um, how did this actually get communicated out? I I’m imagining that you used all of your channels and I mean, this really becomes kind of like a content marketing strategy targeted to a local market. Is that right? You’re absolutely right. I mean, our website and social media were and continue to be some of the most powerful tools that we have.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 07:30 And again, going back to the fact that, you know, prior to the pandemic, we really focus our efforts as many DMS do on talking to people outside of our area, because of course we want them to come here and invest here and help drive the overall economic impact of tourism. But the great thing about, you know, the social or these digital channels, like your website and social media, is that, you know, people from anywhere can subscribe to or follow. So, you know, we’ve been quietly building our digital channels over the last couple of years, and we’re enjoying the fact that we were while we weren’t necessarily outright marketing to them. We were still able to engage a local audience. So luckily we had already kind of built, um, a local following on our different channels. And we also, um, we created a new hashtag called hashtag local rocks because in those early days too, there was this really big, concentrated effort on supporting small businesses and shopping local and, you know, doing anything you could to, to support local.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 08:28 So we, um, teamed up with some local influencers and bloggers who helped us use that hashtag and just kind of plugged them into some of the things that we’re doing to, again, help us kind of reach a slightly different audience, but our website and social media became, and as I said, still are just a real workhorses for us. And I joke with my colleagues that I don’t think are, I don’t think we’ve made it as many updates or changes or added new pieces of content to our website in such a short amount of time in our entire history. And we’ve been, you know, constantly updating the website. And we also had a specific COVID-19 resources page where we had, you know, information, again, both for consumers, but also for the industry. And we were, you know, we continue to keep that updated. And then as we were going along and creating, you know, whether it’s a takeout guide or virtual activities or suggestions on things that you can do outside and safe, socially distant, um, activities, you know, we would fold in all that content onto these landing pages as well, and share that on our social media and, you know, uh, through emails.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 09:33 So, um, digital tools have been very powerful.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:36 Yeah, absolutely. And I’m glad you, you were able to highlight that because I think it’s been so important to have those tools and I love that you were, you know, building those channels and really starting to see some momentum with them really, you know, right. At the right time, timing is everything for sure. Um, for our listeners who are not from the Rochester area, I love the hashtag local racks and racks is a plan word, right. Because it racks as an ROC K, but that’s actually not the acronym that you use. So I want to have you actually tell our listeners a little bit about the rock acronym, and then if you could expand on that and talk a little bit how you’ve used that during this pandemic, not just for that hashtag, but for some of your other programs too.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 10:19 Yes. Thank you. That’s a good reminder that we are, um, we are R O C is Rochester’s kind of acronym, of course, that our airport code is ROC, but hashtag ROC is kind of our local calling card. And so, um, a lot of things in the Rochester area utilize rock as in, you know, rock the blank or, you know, whatever at your event name, rock, it’s kind of our local rallying cry. So yes, for that initiative, hashtag local rocks, it was local R O C S. Um, but we, uh, also, um, created using that rock, um, acronym, um, our rock rising initiative. So we knew that. And so going chronologically, I’d say, this is probably the second, second week of April or so second or third week. So it was a difficult time for the community. Um, cases were rising. We all continued to be at home.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 11:16 Um, obviously staying home saying apart. And, uh, we recognize that there was an opportunity to deliver a message of hope and resilience to our community. Because even though, you know, when you turned on the news, even though all there was, it seemed, it was bad news. We knew that there was still good things happening in Rochester, right? You got these amazing examples of, you know, black button distillery who pivoted from producing spirits to sanitizer. Um, you had local companies like Hickey Freeman that went from making these designers suits to face masks for local hospitals and, and truly countless other examples of, of, of just the coming together and good things happening. So we compiled this list of good of good news, good things happening, um, and that kind of helped board, uh, helped us create this Brock rising initiative where we want to just highlight the positive, highlight, the good, we, we felt that there was an opportunity to do so within the marketplace.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 12:10 And, um, that also led to, uh, we used, we created a video all done in house working remotely. I think the total cost was $25 that we spent on a royalty free song to use. And we use user generated content, um, pictures that were submitted by, you know, real visitors to the area to help be the visual. Um, and really the idea behind the video is that, you know, the flower city will bloom again, that, that there will come a time when it will once again, be safe to open our doors and explore our community and welcome back visitors. And, um, and that, you know, rash sir will rise. And so we really, we went in on this idea of rock rising and it continues to kind of be the umbrella with which we’re even organizing now today, our reopening information and messaging, because we think that that’s a really powerful idea of the community rising up, lifting up and coming back together to be even better and stronger than we were before.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:07 Absolutely. And I love that and we’ll make sure we have a link to that video in our show notes page for this episode, so that listeners can go there and see it. Cause it has a really, really great video. Um, before we talk about recovery and reopening, I wanted to have you share a little bit about some of your rock at home initiatives that you did, uh, you know, in, in the beginning. And, and you just talked a little bit about April and in this rock rising video, um, you know, and when we get into April, that’s when we realized over in this for the long haul, right. It’s no longer, we’re just home for two weeks or here for a while. So, um, how did you start to create new programs based on that realization? Right. And continuing to support that.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 13:55 Yeah, so we, um, we created some content under this idea of rocket home. So if you can’t because that worked as well for a local audience and our March traditional visitor audience saying, if you can’t come to us anytime soon, we’re going to come to you, we’re going to come into your own home. So, and this was something too that, um, you know, destinations across the country where it kind of we’re sharing ideas and, and, you know, helping inspire one another. So we’d seen some other destinations doing something similar to, you know, having the affluent content, right? So talking about all the virtual tours and virtual events and ways that you can stay connected with your, you know, with the strong museum and the Seneca park zoo and the restroom museum and science center. Um, but one thing that we did that was a little different was knowing that so many parents were home and we’re a super family friendly city to begin with roster, um, is one of the top cities for family travelers.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 14:45 It’s something that’s always kind of been in our wheelhouse. We really wanted to, to lean into that strength as well. So knowing that there were so many, um, you know, little ones at home that were doing the homeschooling and virtual learning, we decided to kind of embrace the idea of this, um, you know, remote learning and organize scavenger hunts that could be done safely, you know, from the, from the safety of your car or, or, you know, socially distant with your family, um, scavenger hunts, but they were organized by school subjects. So we had one that was a STEM focus. We had arts and culture. We had a outdoor recreation, kind of like a gym class history one, and then also like a general education one. So we organized this, um, the scavenger hunts around the idea of, um, of learning. We called it learning rocks.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 15:35 Again, everything always has that ROC, um, pun with it. Um, so that was, again, something that we did completely internally, but it gave us another great piece of content, another great touch point to share with our partners, with our community, with our followers. And we also partnered with, um, a local artist, Shawn Dunwoody, who’s really well known here in the Rochester area. And we partnered with Sean to custom make a coloring sheet that we were also able to post as one of those rock at home resources for, um, you know, for any, you know, anyone of all age to enjoy. So we did the scavenger hunts, we promoted the virtual tours and yeah, that coloring page, which again was just a, really another cool collaboration during a very unusual time to promote all the great ways that you could experience rocket home.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:25 Absolutely. And do you see that content being something that you can use even post pandemic? Cause you know, I took a look at those and I actually took my kids on one of those scam and for hunts and I thought this is really a great activity and a really great way for people to experience, uh, Rochester. Um, even if we didn’t have to out of necessity like we do right now.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 16:48 Absolutely. The great thing about, you know, having this really content heavy strategy during the, you know, the early weeks and months of, of being at home, um, is that this content really is for the most part evergreen at this point. And we’re talking now today, it’s the end of July. So at this point, a lot of the, um, organizations and institutions in the Rochester area have reopened. So they, they just, you know, resource resource wise can’t focus as much time on the virtual programming, although some of it still continues, so that’s a little bit less evergreen, but things like the scavenger hunt, the coloring page and, um, even just lists of, you know, places to get takeout from or fresh air activities, you know, that’s all still relevant and something that we can continue to promote and share all, all year long.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:35 Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s fantastic. So Rachel, let’s move ahead a little bit now, um, out of April and into, you know, mid may, uh, towards the end of may, as the phased reopening was starting to begin and in New York state, like many States, um, you know, we’ve, we’ve gone in phases, so different sectors were able to open first, second, third, and fourth, and talk about how your team, you know, really helped again, your, um, you know, your members and the local tourism businesses through this reopening.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 18:15 Yeah. So as we started to prepare to gradually and safely begin to reopen here in Rochester and the finger lakes, um, we knew that, uh, that, you know, this, it, it really was going to take a village and, and we’re very lucky at visit Rochester and that we have the existing structure of something called the visitor industry council. Um, so the visitor industry council is, uh, the working arm of visit roster membership and it is made by members for members and it represents, um, all the different segments here within the tourism industry, eat and drink, um, hotels and lodging attractions, uh, service, uh, community services and businesses. And so we had this existing framework and structure that we were able to connect with our, with our members. And, um, I should note too, that we, as during the pandemic for the first time in visitor industry council history.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 19:05 So we’ve been having a monthly meeting of the Vic, which is what we call it, even having a monthly meeting of this organization every month, literally since 1981. And so for the first time in the organization’s, you know, multi multi-decade history, we had our first ever virtual visitor industry council meeting in, um, in, in April. And we’ve continued to meet virtually ever since. And, you know, we’re all about finding the silver lining strain this time. And a silver lining is that we’ve been able to enjoy, um, you know, reaching people who may otherwise in normal times may not have been able to, you know, physically travel for the meeting. And we’ve enjoyed the attendance of over 150 people on average for every virtual meeting. So that’s been kind of cool, but so we have the, the framework of the Vic. And so as we look toward recovery, um, we knew that engaging our community and our partners was going to be critical because, you know, whether it was, you know, how are we going to message and market the community?

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 20:03 What, you know, what should we be talking about? Who should we be talking to? We really couldn’t do anything until we knew what our partners needed, where they were at and how we can best support them as they prepared to reopen. So we formed through the Vic. Um, we reimagined the committees that we already had formed for the year they were made back in January. And we gave them all a new focus on recovery and reopening. And in some cases we create a new committees to better serve some of our partners. So I, for example, um, co-chair was one of my colleagues, a committee that’s just for our attractions of museums. Um, we have a committee that’s just for restaurants, we have a hotel focus committee, um, and, and so on and so forth. So we created 10 new, uh, and re-imagined all focus on recovery and reopening.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 20:49 And, um, those groups have a meeting, um, at least monthly sometimes by monthly, over the last few months. And it’s just such incredible knowledge sharing because when you get people in the room that share the same struggles or successes, you know, and have an environment with which to say, Hey, I’m really trying to figure out XYZ issue. You know, they can really, our partners can really work together and it’s all facilitated by and supported by visit Rochester. You know, we’re really that, as I said, that framework that has brought everyone together to help plan for, for, for the best possible and most safe reopening. And, um, it’s been a real benefit, a real value, and we’ve been getting great feedback from our partners, um, on the, the new committees. And, you know, I think for anyone listening, my, my biggest takeaway is no matter where you are in your reopening journey is just, you have to have that connectivity with your partners, because you really know now more so than ever before, can’t be operating in a vacuum and you need their input and you have to be, you know, have those open lines of communication.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 21:49 So our, our tourism recovery focused committees to the visitor industry council have been a real asset and benefit to us during this during this time.

Nicole Mahoney: 21:58 Yeah, I think that’s a, that’s amazing. I’ve always said that the visitor industry council is such a huge strength of visit Rochester as a DMO to have that working arm of your membership and that direct connection to the industry, but how cool that you have that, and it’s already this active arm and you were able to kind of, you know, retool and refocus in a time of need. Um, and I love how you went back to the knowledge sharing. And I started this conversation talking about how knowledge is power and, um, how, you know, visit Rochester and your team are really the facilitators and the supporters of that sharing. And I think that that’s, uh, that’s just really great that you’re able to offer that.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 22:44 Yeah. And one actually specific example that came out of our attractions and museum committee was as everyone was preparing to reopen it. And at this point, um, most, not all, but most attractions have reopened, um, albeit with like reduced capacity or reserve ticketing, but folks are open and they’re kind of getting into the swing of things and figuring out, you know, quote unquote the new normal, but, um, you know, one common issue that kept popping up is how to enforce mass wearing. So here in New York state, we are a mask, um, you know, where there is a mass wearing mandate. And, um, you know, we, we were hearing some, um, some thoughts from our partners on how to best enforce it because, you know, they don’t, they want to make sure that their frontline staff aren’t getting into, you know, uncomfortable conversations or situations with guests who may otherwise not want to wear a mask as an example, there’s other kinds of new customer service in the age of COVID issues that have certainly arisen in pop up.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 23:42 But, um, that’s one that we were hearing a lot. Was you, how do you enforce the mask wearing? And so, you know, we again were able to identify this opportunity through the committee and the committee chair, I’ll give her a plug, Deb Ross, who was the, um, uh, founder of kids out and Um, Deb had the brilliant idea of, um, of actually having, uh, people act out some different scenarios that our, um, partners could essentially view. And, and we didn’t really necessarily want to call it a training because our opinion is that this, these issues are still so new that, you know, there isn’t necessarily best practices yet. Um, really what is the, by the book way to enforce mask wearing, right? Cause these are incidents. These are, these are conversations that are in some cases are coming up for the very first time.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 24:31 So we instead want to facilitate an interactive discussion. And so we call it a training discussion because we think that, again, going back to the idea of knowledge is power. You know, more heads are better than one. So, um, we engaged the talented, uh, team behind Astro Fest, comedy troupe, a local, uh, comedy troupe here in Rochester. And they actually created six different scenarios, all informed by real life. Things that have been observed or have happened at some of our partner locations. And they acted out these different, um, COVID-19 customer service scenarios, and they basically acted it out all over zoom, everything was virtual. And then that provided an opportunity for everyone that had joined us for this conversation, this discussion to basically share what worked, what didn’t work, what takeaways can you bring back to your organization? Because that’s the other thing too, is that every organization is going to be enforcing.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 25:28 It’s going to have different policies and protocols. And, you know, there’s a big difference between the wide open expanses of a farm compared to a historic house, right? In terms of when you need to wear a mask and when you’re not wearing a mask and social distance and all that good stuff. So I’m, again, knowing that this wasn’t going to be a one size fits all solution. We partnered with Astro Fest to facilitate this interactive, um, virtual training discussion. And it was really successful. And now we have something that we can share with our partners that they can bring back to their own organizations and watch with their frontline staffs and determine, you know, how would we respond to this scenario that you just saw acted out in front of you? So, um, that was directly informed by our one of our tourism recovery committees.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 26:14 So the, the power of the bringing people together just cannot be understated. Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s just a really great example. And I love how, you know, your, your committee led by Deborah, you know, was talking about the ideas are, and the challenges that they’re facing and asking the questions and then, um, you know, through everyone kind of talking and exploring together, you were able to come up with this really unique way to practice, right. And to learn. Um, I think that’s just fabulous. And I love that you engaged with Astro fast in that comedy troupe and that you have these scenarios ecstatic. I love it. So, uh, Rachel, I know there are some other programs that you have going on, which is amazing, cause you guys have just done so much in such a short period of time, and I want to make sure that we hit on them. Um, so can you tell us a little bit about the rock ready promise and there’s that rock again?

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 27:21 Um, you know, if this, if this, uh, podcast was, if people are listening to this after five, they, this could even be a drinking game, right? And every time you say rock, take a sip of a finger lakes mind, there you go. I love it. Great idea. Um, so, uh, as we prepared for reopening, we were hearing and seeing from national research and, um, and surveys in the travel industry that showed that one of the most important things to consumers, um, as they prepare to just get back out there again was, uh, safety. And so, um, we worked again, ran this through our, our visitor industry council, uh, recovery committees to get their thoughts on it. But we knowing that safety and cleanliness was so important, we created the rock ready promise. So the rock ready promise is essentially a commitment that businesses really any business in the Rochester area, but we created it with tourism and hospitality businesses in mind that any business can make that says, you know, to their customers, their guests, their employees, that these are the core steps that we’re taking to keep you safe, keep this facility clean.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 28:29 And it’s all stuff that our partners would be doing anyway, hand washing mass, squaring, social distancing, um, you know, keeping their employees informed of what’s happening with COVID and the community. So it was all things that we knew they were doing anyway, but by creating this rock ready promise, it was essentially a way for businesses to easily say and communicate to their customers, that this is everything we’re doing to keep you safe. And in turn on our website, when we talk about the property promise, we know that it’s really a two way street and in turn, you know, customers need to uphold their end of the, of the bargain, if you will, and follow the same types of protocols and procedures to help keep our community safe. Because at the end of the day, we want, you know, we want, we want businesses reopened and we want them to stay open.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 29:15 And that is only possible. If we, as a community can stay, um, can stay safe and, and keep our numbers low. And that means continuing to do all the things we’ve been doing with hand washing and mass flowering and social distancing. So the rock ready promise was born out of this, um, opportunity to directly tell guests and visitors that our businesses are taking their health and safety seriously. And that if they see the rock ready, promise displayed at a business, the sticker and a window or the larger sign that we’ve created, that they can take comfort in knowing that the business is following these steps to keep them safe. And that’s really, really terrific. And again, another really innovative way, uh, to support the industry as well as, um, the consumer. Um, so I think that’s fantastic. And then I know you have another program called rediscover, is that rock rediscover Rochester. We went on with the full, the full name on this one.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 30:19 So tell us about that, because I actually think that sounds very interesting, um, uh, program, because I know it’s one that you’ve brought back. Right. And, uh, and are kind of re bringing it off the shelf if you will. So yeah. Talk about that one a little bit. Yeah. So, um, again, knowing that, you know, that summer travel was going to look different this year. Uh, we tapped into the fact that people like you and I live here in rock in the Rochester area. We’ve been spending a lot of time at home lately, and we’re all a little ready to, you know, we’ve got a little bit of a bug to get out there and, um, and start just doing things again. Right. But being safe. And so knowing that there was all this kind of untapped energy right here in our hometown, um, we, uh, launched a, essentially a tourist in your own town initiative.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 31:08 We just launched it within the last couple of weeks. And the idea is to rediscover Rochester, um, you know, get out there, explore everything right here in your own backyard, because so often we take for granted what is here in our own community. And, and we don’t, you know, we have to almost really try to make a concentrated effort to, to think of ourselves as a tourist and as a day trip discover. Um, and so we really wanted to make it easier for people right here in Rochester to get back out, start exploring, you know, Hey, you’re not comfortable going a long distance. You’re not comfortable yet hopping on a plane and going to another state or Florida or whatever. Um, there’s so many experiences you can have right here in Rochester, visit the strong museum again, go to a farm, go to the Lake.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 31:55 You know, there’s multiple beaches in Rochester, New York people forget that, you know, we are this incredible, uh, you know, cultural centric, metropolitan destination, and we’ve got both an urban core, but also we’re surrounded by just incredible amounts of, of natural, um, wonders really, right. We’re on the Southern shore of Lake Ontario. So you’ve got the Lake Ontario beach front, we’ve got the Erie canal that runs through the community, the Genesee river, we’re the front door to the finger lakes region. There’s just so many opportunities to get outside, get on the water. I personally have taken a bike riding during quarantine. Um, you know, I know people are finding new ways to get outside more than ever before. And so we really want to tell people like you don’t have to go too far to do that. You can explore right here in your own backyard.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 32:41 And while you’re at it, support local businesses, you know, get reacquainted with some old favorites. But what we love about the rediscover Rochester message is that it works for visitors as well, because, you know, maybe you haven’t visited in a while, but Hey, come back. This is a great time. We’re open, you know, New York, um, our numbers, again, knock on wood are looking good right now. Um, we’re a safe place to visit. And, you know, one of the other things that we’ve learned from research is that consumers are also, and travelers are looking, they’re interested in going to places that they’ve already been before, because there’s that sense of comfort and kind of knowing what to expect. So again, to people who maybe haven’t visited, visited roster in five years, 10 years, you know, come back, welcome back rediscover place that, you know, and see, just see all there is to see and do here. So, um, rediscover Rochester, it’s our, it’s our pitch to, you know, invite your safely, invite your friends and family to get back into your own community and be a tourist in your own town.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:41 Yeah. I love it. And what I really, really love about it is, uh, one of the things that, uh, COVID-19 has done one of the silver line linings is really, um, inspire locals to rediscover or to be the tourist in their own town and, um, and really enjoy what they have, uh, right at home. And so I think that’s just really fantastic that you were able to, you know, use this campaign, um, you know, to help inspire that as well.

Rachel Laber Pulvino: 34:10 Yeah. Thank you. It’s been fun to, uh, to really help, you know, be we’ve always been great cheerleaders of the Rochester community, but it’s been, it’s been a welcome, uh, you know, shift in, uh, talking to a local audience and, and really just telling people to, um, to get out there and, and right, everybody feels everybody’s going to be at different levels of comfort. And so whether you want to go, just literally get lost in the woods and, you know, you can explore, uh, you know, Mendon ponds park or, or take a day trip to, uh, Octa chimney Bluffs on Lake Ontario or electro state park. Right. You can have a super socially distant, uh, experience, or if you’re like me and you want, you’re sick of cooking for yourself and you, you you’re ready to enjoy the incredible restaurants here. Well, you know, we’ve got a list of outdoor outdoor dining available in restaurants. Great patio was a great takeout, or, you know, do you want to go visit a winery or brewery, or maybe you want to, you know, take the kids, um, take the kids, you know, back to the strong museum or the Rochester museum and science center. You know, there’s so much to do our, our tourism partners have worked so hard to provide safe experiences. They’re, they’re open, they’re ready and it’s time to a time to rediscover what what’s always made Rochester, such a wonderful place to live, work and visit.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:26 Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, Rachel. I am so glad that you said that yes. To my invite, to have you back on, because I just knew there would be so much to talk about, um, I really appreciate you sharing all that you have been doing and your team has been doing a lot since this pandemic started. And I know there’s more work to be done absolutely. As we, as we move through this. Um, so I’ll be excited to see what visit Rochester does as we move through and out of this, uh, pandemic. Do you have any final words that you would like to share? And also if you could share with our listeners where they might connect with you before we say goodbye. Absolutely. Well, thank you again, Nicole, for the opportunity. And, you know, I would just close in saying that, uh, we’re certainly still very much in this and, you know, if anyone had a crystal ball to project, what the next six months look like, I think that person would be, you know, very, very, uh, wealthy right now.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:24 But, um, you know, here at visit Rochester, we are going to continue to be nimble, to be flexible, and we’re going to do all that we can to just help our community rise up and to, you know, as I said, be even better than we were before we are committed to our partners, our community, um, our visitors. And so I encourage anyone who’s interested in learning more about Rochester, New York and why we’re a fabulous place to visit, even, even in the midst of everything going on, go to visit We’re at visit Rochester on social media and we are hashtag visit rock, um, to quickly find some great content, but I hope everyone is staying safe, uh, doing well. And we would love to see you and your mask faces in Rochester sometime soon. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much, Rachel. Thank you, Nicole. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our weekly. I see. Why am I in case you missed it easy newsletter each week, along with our podcast episode, we share an article written by one of the break, the ice media team members about the travel and tourism industry, our articles mirror, the mix of industry segments and topics similar to this podcast to join our newsletter tax D O T L two six six eight six six, or visit break the ice forward slash blog.

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