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Mark Calitri speaks tourism: 3 ways to build guest confidence

According to author Jena Tessa Fox and the most recent Price Waterhouse Coopers survey—travelers will make travel decisions based on safety. The PwC survey found some definite bright spots as almost 40% of consumers plan to travel by this July.
Mark Calitri, Visit Owensboro, President/CEO, indicated that for the tourism industry to begin recovery two things must happen simultaneously…first the government must ease travel restrictions and lockdowns. Second, the consumer’s confidence in safety must improve.”
Calitri said, “People are scared and it’s difficult to find clear and non-politically motivated Covid 19 information. This process of easing restrictions will slowly allow consumer confidence to return.”
Calitri said, “Visit Owensboro is working hard to postpone events and reschedule—not cancel. We are taking a positive outlook for 2021!’
The article listed 3 key takeaways and what it will take to improve consumer confident and make sure their customers and guests feel safe when away from home:
1. Cite the CDC, not private companies
More than half (59 percent) of respondents rated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first among sources they will consult before traveling. In fact, they are 70 percent more likely to trust the CDC than the federal government (36 percent), which ranks fourth on the list of trusted sources, after state governments (49 percent) and other health organizations (37 percent). In turn, only 10 percent of respondents said they trust the safety guidelines of private businesses like hotels, restaurants and airlines.
To reassure their customers, travel, transportation and hospitality companies should communicate clearly and cite trusted sources to help guide their safety policies.
2. Build trust
This is a moment for branded hotels to shine and make the brand synonymous with safety and security. More than double the number of consumers surveyed said they would avoid spending the night in a short-term rental property (37 percent) compared to a brand-name hotel (16 percent).
Hotels can capitalize on that trust by sharing their safety standards and making sure guests understand how hard the property’s team is working to keep everyone safe. Almost 75 percent of respondents said employees wearing personal protective equipment and third-party certified sanitation reviews offer them a sense of security.
At the same time, almost 85 percent said their travel decisions will hinge on communications they receive from hotels and airlines about safety. (This is an opportunity to reach out to former customers and guests detailing a hotel’s CDC-recommended initiatives: Approximately 40 percent said they were unsatisfied with the communications they’re currently receiving about safety protocols.) Hotels also can communicate their efforts to current guests by having dedicated COVID-19 sanitation workers wearing a dedicated uniform.

3. Upsell safety
Travelers want control of their surroundings: Nearly half—43 percent of respondents—said they were likely to spend more to confirm physical distancing on their next flight, with 60 percent of families with children willing to pay more. Fifty-five percent of consumers aged 18 to 40 years also said they would spend more to feel safe when traveling. In other words, while hoteliers should certainly not look to abuse their guests’ concerns, they should not fear making sure the price is commensurate with the steps taken to maintain safety.
The desire to stay safe can be a boon for hotels in certain markets: Respondents also said they would want easy access to testing at their destinations, and would be more likely to select destinations that are past the peak of COVID-19 infection and have adequate contact tracing and hospital capacity. Businesses in these areas can mention these factors in their marketing to help ensure guests that the destination is a safe one.


Mark Calitri reports: Hospitality industry slammed by pandemic

Hospitality industry slammed by pandemic
The nation’s hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, attractions and events — has sustained massive losses in the past two months.
A new report from the U.S. Travel Association says the industry has lost more than $157 billion in business since March, when compared with 2019.
The week that ended May 9 alone saw a $19 billion loss, the report said.
In Kentucky, it said, revenue for the travel industry was down $172 million for that week alone.
“Visit Owensboro has not been immune to COVID-19,” Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said recently.

“With the government-mandated business closings and lockdowns in place, the next 60 days are not looking much better as we are estimating a 60% occupancy decline in May and June,” he said. “These are not just numbers. They represent losses to real people in Daviess County who are suffering and negatively affected across a broad spectrum of businesses.”


Great Race postponed until August. Vintage cars from five countries.

Great Race postponed until August. Vintage cars from five countries.
The Great Race won’t be rolling into town on June 24 with 120 vintage cars from Japan, England, Germany, Canada and all over the United States after all.
But, so far at least, it’s only been postponed to Aug. 26.
“I’m pleased to announce that all of our grand champions, as well as a majority of the race teams, volunteers and staff, have agreed to the new schedule and we look forward to having a full field for the start of the 2020 Great Race in front of the Alamo on Aug. 22,” Jeff Stumb, event director, said in a news release.
The 2,300-mile race, which features $158,750 in prize money, ends in Greenville, South Carolina, on Aug. 30.
Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said if things have returned to near normal by Aug. 26, the event will be a big boost for the local economy.
When the event was expected in June and no one had heard of coronavirus, Stumb said in a news release, “When the Great Race pulls into a city, it becomes an instant festival. Last year, we had a couple of overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.”
This week, he said, “The Great Race will follow all CDC, state and local guidelines, and officials have been working closely with cities to have spectators line the streets on the way into the venue to ensure social distancing rather than in large groups.
“As the entire United States is opening up again, we will continue to monitor the situation for any changes we may be able to make in either direction,” Stumb said.
He said the race committee and sponsors have set July 1 as the official “go” date — as long as conditions are favorable.
Calitri said, “We are thankful The Great Race organizers are putting the health and safety of their drivers and spectators first. The new date allows us to better prepare for the event in terms of keeping everyone safe while still enjoying the event.”
He said local hotels have been able to rebook rooms for Aug. 26.
“The Great Race is a phenomenal event that has sold out our downtown properties and stretches to some of our other hotels,” Calitri said.
He said the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum is planning outdoor music that evening to welcome the racers.
“It will look a little different and we do not have all the details yet,” Calitri said. “How different will be determined by both our state and local governments. We plan to release more details as we get closer to the event and have a better understanding about what regulations will need to be followed to have a safe and successful event.”
He said, “This highlights that the return to travel is not going to instantaneous, but a slow methodical process, until the consumer has confidence of their safety. Travelers are looking for safety and cleanliness, which have always been part of the foundation of the hospitality business, but now with COVID, it’s under a microscope. Owensboro has always been a resilient community and I think we are well-positioned for the best possible outcome as travel restarts.”
In Kentucky, the race will stop in Paducah, Owensboro, Bardstown and Georgetown.
All vehicles have to be manufactured before 1975.
The race, which shares its name with a 1965 movie about another race, ran for the first time in 1983.
Older cars frequently complete the event.
In 2011, it was a 1911 Velie that won.
The following year, a 1907 Renault and a 1914 Ford Model T both ran the entire course.
And last year, a 1909 Buick completed the journey.
Each car has a driver and a navigator, and they can change places as often as they want.
The Great Race is not as speed race.
It is a time/speed/distance race.
Dave Kirk, the CVB’s destination management director, said earlier that the drivers and navigators “are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301,


Calitri reports: Owensboro bidding for GeoWoodstock 2021

Owensboro hopeful to host 2022 geocaching festival



Calitri reports: Owensboro bidding for GeoWoodstock 2021

Calitri reports: Owensboro bidding for GeoWoodstock 2021
Owensboro’s tourism industry — hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, gas stations and retail — is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions of dollars worth of business has been lost this spring.
But the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau is hoping to land a major event for Memorial Day weekend in 2021 that would pump an estimated $800,000 back into the community in a single week.
The CVB is bidding to host GeoWoodstock XIX, the world’s largest geocaching festival.
It expects to learn in August if the bid is successful.
Margaret Bedilion is director of sales at Stay, Play, Made Simple, a West Chester, Ohio, company that provides housing for tournaments and major events.
She will handle housing in Owensboro if the city wins the bid.


ROMP Kentucky music festival postponed indefinitely

ROMP Kentucky music festival postponed indefinitely
Add another cancellation to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 17th annual ROMP bluegrass festival at Yellow Creek Park, which was expected to bring more than 25,000 people to town in June, has been postponed indefinitely.
But Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, which produces the festival, said he’s hoping ROMP can be rescheduled for later in the year.
The lineup was to have included Chris Thile’s American Public Media show “Live from Here,” Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, The Devil Makes Three, Sam Bush, We Banjo 3, Mandolin Orange, Dan Tyminski, Town Mountain, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (winners of the 2020 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album), Balsam Range, Front Country, Trout Steak Revival, Blue Highway, The Price Sisters and Giri & Uma Peters.
Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. “Bluegrass music is a major part of our identity and ROMP is how many visitors experience Owensboro and Daviess County initially. It’s an important gateway to discovering all that we have to offer as a community.”
He said the Hall of Fame “is a vital tourism partner and Visit Owensboro will do all we can to support ROMP to ensure this signature event remains strong for our area.”


Calitri keeping positive outlook during Covid-19 pandemic

Calitri keeping positive outlook during Covid-19 pandemic
This column was submitted by Mark Calitri, President & CEO of the Owensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
During uncertain times, one thing is definite. We will be better as a result of these crises. Everyone loves a comeback story, and Owensboro will come back better than ever. We’ve been the underdog before, and we thrive in that role.
As the virus continues to evolve, our local small businesses, along with the hospitality and restaurant industry, have taken the hardest hit financially. Everyone in our community is affected by this novel virus.
But one thing I’ve learned since moving to Owensboro a couple of years ago is this city’s strongest asset is our people. I’ve never seen people come together in such a way to benefit the common good more than they have during this pandemic.
Think about it. When you’re on walks with your family, have you ever seen so many people smile and wave? What about the community help fund — made possible by a collaboration of several organizations — that’s now over $600,000 going directly to benefit those who need it most during this difficult time? All of the distilleries making hand sanitizer and individuals sewing cloth masks? Those drive-thru or carry out workers risking their health to feed your family?
I want to be clear. The entire tourism industry is in uncharted territory. Experts say this will affect our business seven times worse than 9/11. We’re hurting. The hardest part is we don’t know when we will be able to open back up.
The important thing is we will reopen. We are rescheduling. We are rebooking. We are aggressively pursuing new events. We’re doing more with less in our marketing efforts. We will be ready to welcome back our visitors.
We are believers in partnerships and the power of collaboration. Together, Owensboro will weather this crisis and build a stronger economic future.
Visit Owensboro is the official destination marketing organization for Owensboro and Daviess County Kentucky. Mark Calitri serves as President/CEO.


Calitri anticpates major losses from Coronavirus pandemic, CVB finding ways to prepare for future

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to cost the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau between $50,000 and $55,000 in lost revenue from its 3% tax on hotel room rentals.
Mark Calitri, president of the CVB, made that prediction Friday during a teleconference with his board of directors.
He said he expects hotel revenues here to fall by 50% this month and 65% in April.
But the CVB gets its money from the tax two months late, Calitri said.
So, the office won’t see the revenue drop until May and June, he said.
“Hotels are definitely feeling the effect of this,” Calitri said. “February and the first week of March were really good. And then, the bottom fell out.”
Both Hampton Inns in Owensboro closed Thursday until the pandemic is over.
But other hotels are still open, Calitri said, and people are still coming to town.
He said the CVB staff is creating plans for a 30-day sprint once businesses reopen, “so we can come out faster” than other CVBs.

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Mark Calitri reports: The nation’s hospitality industry is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Hotels reeling from pandemic
By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer Mar 21, 2020 0

The nation’s hospitality industry is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
In Owensboro, Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if our hotels experience a 60% to 70% drop in occupancy (for March) from the previous year.”
He said March 13 was definitely Friday the 13th.

“One hotel reported that they lost over $50,000 in future reservations,” Calitri said. “That’s in one day! This type of news indicates to me that April results could be worse.”
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, the largest trade association for the hotel industry, said in a news release, “The economic impact on the hotel industry is already more severe than the 9/11 and 2008 recessions — combined.”
Calitri said, “We were anticipating a record-breaking March and April this year. We’re trying to rebook as much as we can for later.”
More than a dozen events have been affected in just those two months, he said.
“With the April cancellations of the All A Boys Baseball Championship, All A Girls Softball Championship, 2A Boys and Girls state championships and Mid-South Conference Tennis Tournament, the Daviess County economy lost an estimated impact of at least $635,000,” Calitri said.
That includes hotels, restaurants, service stations and other parts of the tourism sector.
“The impact of the coronavirus on Kentucky’s travel and tourism industry has been devastating,” Hank Phillips, president of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, said in an email. “There is no sugarcoating it.”
“Leisure and business travel and meetings and events have come to a virtual standstill,” he said. “Our industry was the first to be impacted and therefore has been dealing with the business effects the longest and most deeply. In the face of that, I have been overwhelmed by the concern being shown by tourism business owners, CEOs and general managers for their employees and their families, and for the communities where their businesses are located.”
Tourism had an $11.2 billion impact on Kentucky last year, Phillips said, with 95,000 jobs and $800 million in state and local taxes.
The local CVB operates on a 3% tax on hotel room rentals.

Madison Silvert, president of the Malcolm Bryant Corp., which owns both Hampton Inn hotels in Owensboro, said, “Although occupancy is down, our commitment to our people has been to not cut hours. We are using this time to make each property sparkle beyond even the high levels we are accustomed, and to train our people to be better prepared for when occupancy returns. Our plan is to come out on the other side of this better than ever while maintaining our commitment to our employees.”
He said, “From a guest standpoint, we are taking every precaution that they have an incredible and, above all, safe stay. Increased sanitization standards are present throughout our properties, even beyond what Hilton has suggested.”
Silvert said, “We need to continue to find new ways to create experiences for visitors and business travelers that keep people coming to Owensboro and coming back to Owensboro. Each person who visits here is a potential return visitor, future investor, or future Owensboroan.”
Claude Bacon, vice president of sales, e-commerce and administration for Owensboro-based LinGate Hospitality, which operates the Holiday Inn and Courtyard Suites by Marriott, said, “The Covid-19 crisis is clearly the most challenging time in the hotel industry. Occupancy levels have greatly decreased. Our main concern is the impact on our employees and look forward to the day when we can return to pre-Covid employment levels.”
An Oxford Economics study on travel industry losses predicts “a 31% decline for the entire year — including a 75% drop in revenue over the next two months and continued losses over the rest of the year reaching $355 billion.”
“We project the U.S. economy to enter a protracted recession based on the expected downturn in travel alone. The recession is likely to last at least three quarters with the lowest point in the second quarter of 2020,” it said.
The study projected a decline of $55 billion in taxes this year and a loss of 4.6 million jobs.
“What we need right now is analogous to the term ‘bending the curve’ that we hear about slowing the spread of the virus enough that our hospital facilities and our heroic health care providers are not overwhelmed,” Phillips said.
“On the tourism business side, we are trying to bend a curve, too,” he said. “We are seeking federal support of the industry that will bend our curve upward just enough that we will still be here when people are able to start traveling again. And that’s the one thing we know for certain — people will travel again and we will be here to be at their service.”
Calitri said, “It would be irresponsible to continue tourism marketing and promotion during this time of uncertainty. The Kentucky Department of Tourism led by Commissioner Mike Mangeot has officially suspended marketing and advertising for 30 days.”
But, he said, “Once this threat subsides, our No. 1 priority going forward is creating more reasons for people to come and spend money. The CVB is working with our clients and tourism partners to weather this storm and look to rebook as many groups as possible.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301


Mark Calitri reports: Hotel closings are going to require real leadership when we move out of the Covid-19 crisis

Hampton Inns closing Thursday until pandemic over
By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer Mar 25, 2020 0

The Malcolm Bryant Corp. will put all of its hotels — including both Hampton Inns in Owensboro — on hiatus from 3 p.m. Thursday “until it is safe again for employees to return to work,” the company announced Tuesday.
It was the first such announcement by a hotel in Owensboro during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he hasn’t heard of any other hotels that plan to close.
TownePlace Suites by Marriott announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that it is staying open.
Madison Silvert, president of the company, said, “This is purely a precautionary measure for our team members. We made a commitment not to reduce our employees’ hours early on. That was not an easy financial decision to make, but we made it work. There came a time, as our understanding of the coronavirus became clearer and cases were getting closer to home, that we began to think of putting our hotels on a temporary hiatus for the good of public health.”

He said, “Employees’ financial health remains a priority as well. We have been in direct contact with the state workforce cabinet at the highest levels to ensure that our employees will not see any disruption or delay in their pay. We always put our team members first, and we want to make sure that they are healthy and ready to return to work when this pandemic is over.”
Silvert said, “However, we have a duty to the public as well, and we believe this is the right thing to do to help reduce public gathering and the eventual burden on our health care resources.”
The company’s hotels include the 150-room Hampton Inn and Suites Owensboro-Downtown/Waterfront, the 86-room Hampton Inn Owensboro South and the Hampton Inn Louisville Northeast.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301,