According to travel industry experts, this summer is going to be bumper year for domestic tourism. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, there is increased demand for all types of vacation accommodation, airlines are adding more flights and new routes to their summer schedules, and car rental companies are turning away bookings due to a shortage of cars.
However, a bumper year for domestic tourism means it is going to be no holiday for public safety agencies in vacation destinations. Not only will the agencies have to deal with greater numbers of tourists than usual, but many tourists will also be more accustomed to vacationing abroad and less likely to be familiar with stricter local bylaws than you find in Mexico or the Caribbean.
Public order issues could be exacerbated if visitors from jurisdictions in which masks are not necessary descend on destinations in which masks are still required. Furthermore, although many states have relaxed mask policies to align with the CDC’s May 13 guidance, in jurisdictions where there are no state or local requirements, businesses are entitled to set their own mask policies.
With regards to the CDC’s May 13 guidance, although it is intended to apply to people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the risk exists that non-vaccinated people will take advantage of the guidance and potentially cause infection rates to increase again. At present, it is too early to predict a fourth wave this fall, but there’s not enough evidence to suggest it won’t happen.
The Importance of Effective Community Messaging
During this summer season, effective community messaging is going to be more important than ever. Not only might existing community members need to be reminded of COVID-19 mitigation measures, but the messaging will have to get through to visitors – who might not have access to local radio and TV stations, buy local newspapers, or follow the local public health agency on social media.
It may also be the case that COVID-19 mitigation measures may be subject to short-notice changes if – for example – the CDC’s May 13 guidance is rolled back or if there is a local breakout of a COVID variant against which the current vaccines are not so effective against. In these circumstances, there may also be the reintroduction of mandatory PCR testing or quarantining for out of state visitors.
Ensuring that existing community members and visitors are informed about changes to COVID-19 mitigation measures will be crucial for containing any outbreaks and preventing visitors from taking COVID variants back to their communities. It is therefore essential public safety agencies have a strategy to address worst possible scenarios and the tools in place to communicate the strategy.
Getting the Message Heard with a Text Messaging Platform
Although it can be a good idea to include radio, TV, newspapers, and social media among the tools used to communicate a public safety strategy, nothing is more effective at getting a message heard than SMS messaging. Most people have their mobile phones on them at all times, most texts are read within three minutes of delivery, and most people prefer to receive messages by SMS text.
However, a potential issue for public safety agencies is how to send text messages to people when you don’t have their mobile phone number. A solution to this issue is to adopt a text messaging platform such as Rave Alert that has SMS opt-in capabilities and develop a text messaging service around it that existing community members and visitors can take advantage of.
Most people will be familiar with SMS opt-in as the process is widely used in SMS marketing (i.e., text “PIZZA” to 74992). However, one of the advantages of using the Rave platform for SMS opt-in is that visitors can text keywords that relate to the length of their vacation so they are automatically removed from the system when they return home. For example:
- Text “VACATION2” if you are staying for two nights
- Text “VACATION7” if you are staying for a week
- Text “VACATION14” if you are staying for two weeks.
SMS Opt-In is Not Only for Public Safety Messaging
To maximize the return from an investment in a text messaging platform – and encourage more people to register for the service – it is beneficial not only to use the platform for public safety messaging, but also to advertise local events and attractions, and to offer discounts for public amenities. When used in the retail industry, discount conversion rates can be as high as 45%.
In addition, the Rave platform can be used to send traffic reports to opted-in residents and visitors, and to disseminate weather alerts from IPAWS authorities the year round – increasing its value to the community. In the event of an emergency, the Rave platform can also be used to coordinate emergency responses and help the community recover faster from a natural or manmade disaster.
To see how SMS opt-in works in practice – and to find out how easy Rave Alert is to use – do not hesitate to get in touch a request a demo of the platform in action. Our team will be happy to walk you through sending a mass text to an opted in database and discuss other options for how you can best prepare your community to be ready for post-pandemic summer vacationers.