Business and leisure travel came to a virtual standstill in 2020, which further depressed customer counts at local hotels, restaurants, breweries and other hospitality providers already handicapped by COVID-19 safety restrictions.

At Experience Grand Rapids, we’ve always recognized that locals are a key component of a healthy hospitality and tourist sector – we know that nearly 50% of tourists come to Grand Rapids to visit family and friends. That’s why we’ve developed events like Restaurant Week Grand Rapids and programs like Beer City Brewsader®, which raise awareness and excitement for residents and visitors alike.

When the first stay-at-home order was issued for Michigan in March 2020, we immediately turned our marketing efforts inward to help our hospitality partners cope with the new reality.

We created a new web page listing restaurants that offer carryout and delivery services, another page to promote outdoor Social Zones in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas, and more recently, a page to highlight restaurants offering outdoor dining in winter weather, after indoor dining was again restricted.

We posted blog entries on how to plan a staycation, how to shop local, where to find spring gardening supplies, who offers beer takeout and numerous other articles aimed squarely at area residents.

Even during the pandemic, our web traffic has remained impressive – was visited over 3,000 times per day in 2020, on average. Our messaging helped drive these users to area businesses.

We also created a new event – Craft Pass GR, which encouraged locals to visit at least four participating breweries, cideries and distilleries in September and October, in exchange for a free gift.

We are pleased to report that locals stepped up in response to our marketing efforts and their own desire to support the community. As we hopefully round the bend on the pandemic, we salute everyone who booked a hotel for a staycation, ordered takeout, visited a museum, bought something from a local shop and otherwise contributed to the continued vitality of the region’s tourism and hospitality businesses.