Dear Valued Members,
At an emergency meeting of the HospitalityMaine board of directors Thursday, we discussed the current state of the Covid-19 virus, and the association’s response on behalf of our members.
As you know, the situation has greatly accelerated in the past few days, and clearly Maine is not immune to the impact being felt globally, regardless of how many of our citizens have been infected. Our lodging members are reporting reservations and group meeting cancelations or postponements, and many restaurants have experienced significantly reduced traffic. Unfortunately, this situation is likely to continue until the virus crisis subsides.
We are closely following developments and are in continual consultation with our national association partners, the Maine Congressional delegation and state officials. Here are the immediate steps HospitalityMaine is taking:
- Governor Mills announced March 12 that all public gatherings of over 250 people should be canceled or postponed at least through April 12. This affects our two upcoming events – the HospitalityMaine Awards Gala on March 31 and the Maine Restaurant and Lodging Expo on April 1. Therefore we are postponing, not canceling, these important events. Look for new dates and information soon.
- We are exploring ways to mitigate the financial impact on members. I met this week with the Finance Authority of Maine. Our Gov. Affairs Director Greg Dugal is communicating with the delegation in Washington. I also spoke with DECD Commissioner Heather Johnson today about this.
- Our goal is special short term financing to bridge the downturn. This could include low interest SBA disaster relief loans, the terms of which are yet to be confirmed. I have personal experience with this when my travel business secured such a loan during the post 9/11 period when virtually no one traveled for months. It helped me to retain my staff and ultimately was a factor in the business’ survival.
- We are attending a special meeting March 13 with the DECD and Office of Tourism, along with members from the tourism alliance. We will be talking about ways to support the industry from a marketing perspective with the objective of driving more visitors in the short term. On a related note: Director Steve Lyons has canceled the Governor’s Conference on Tourism next month and will be doing a ‘virtual’ conference instead.
- We will provide coronavirus updates and are planning a series of online seminars to educate members on best practices and strategies to implement - both virus and business related.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the health and safety of ourselves, our employees and guests are crucial, and that circumstances beyond our control are just that.
We should not panic, but be realistic and understanding in our approach. The key is to respond to the crisis effectively and decisively in the short term, while preparing our businesses for the long term because we know this will eventually pass. This is guiding the association’s strategy and efforts during these unprecedented times.
Contact me with questions, thoughts or suggestions. I welcome your input.
Together we will get through this,
President and CEO