GUEST COLUMN: During pandemic, support of local business crucial

GUEST COLUMN: During pandemic, support of local business crucial

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The Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce traditionally has played a dual role. We promote the community to visitors, and we support members by helping them connect with customers and other businesses.

At this time — with the coronavirus pandemic calling into question the advisability and effectiveness of any campaign encouraging people to travel — we feel our energy is best spent spurring our community to support local businesses.

The lifting of Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order has allowed the economy to re-open, safely and responsibly. Kudos to our many members who have enacted safeguards to promote social distancing and ensure sanitization as they welcome back customers.

Even with the economy reopened, some consumers are understandably skittish about travel. In a departure from its typical push to bring visitors to Wisconsin, the Department of Tourism is encouraging people to stay close to home and shop local. I agree that, for the time being, that’s the most prudent course of action.

The Chamber’s marketing effort will shift to a two-part push. First, we will embark on an educational campaign designed to demonstrate to community members that supporting local businesses is absolutely critical. The down side of the potentially hazardous nature of travel during the pandemic is that tourism has been brought to a near standstill. The up side is that, if people are advised to stay close to home, they’re in position to help local businesses that are suffering from a dearth of visitors.

Second, as the economy continues to reopen and safety measures are perfected, we will embark upon a regional tourism campaign. We will promote the Baraboo area to nearby communities from Richland Center to Pardeeville, and from Tomah to Dodgeville. We worked to gain a foothold in several of those markets during the holiday season last winter, and will renew our push to attract consumers interested in taking a day trip to sample the Baraboo area’s diverse shopping, dining and entertainment options. I feel consumers wary of cross-country travel will look for regional options.

This is a can-do community. I’m confident residents will heed our call to circle the wagons and boost the locally owned businesses that form the community’s foundation. We just might find that we enjoy playing the role of tourist in our own community!

Darren Hornby is executive director of the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce.

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