Mayor Hogsett announces ‘You’ve Earned It’ campaign during a press conference at Livery restaurant, Wed. July 1, 2020.
Indianapolis is launching a $1 million marketing campaign to encourage Hoosiers to visit the state’s capital this summer as the city reels from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and a May weekend of riots.
The campaign, funded through an initial $76 million appropriation of federal Coronavirus Relief Fund money given to Indianapolis, will feature advertising on social media, radio, television and online.
Indiana residents can receive up to 50 percent off more than 30 hotels, a lure that officials hope will attract Hoosiers and boost other businesses.
“This summer our city is celebrating 200 years as Indiana’s capital and our status as the economic and cultural centerpiece of this great state,” Hogsett said. “So to our fellow Hoosiers: We’re excited to invite you to join us here in Indianapolis.”
Some downtown business owners, however, are less than optimistic.
“They can have these campaigns and all this, but we need to feel safe down here,” said Chris Karnavis, the owner of Jack’s Donuts on Market Street. “The visitors need to feel that this is a safe city again.”
Indianapolis hotels slash rates to draw visitors
The marketing campaign comes as the city cautiously attempts to return to a somewhat normal state of life. In Stage 4 of reopening, indoor dining has increased to 75% capacity while bars have opened at 50%. Retail stores and malls, meanwhile, have opened at full capacity.
Yet the economic struggles are profound. Hotels, which are normally at 70% occupancy, are averaging about 7%, Hogsett said. Wednesday.
Visit Indy estimates that more than 50% of the 83,000 tourism workers are unemployed.
The campaign, titled “You’ve Earned It,” will run from July until Labor Day.
The effort comes while the city walks a fine line between revitalizing its economy and keeping residents and visitors safe.
Hogsett said his administration is still considering mandating masks in public. The city will provide updated public health guidance on Thursday.
“I think it is a delicate balance between making sure that people are being mindful,” he said of maintaining public safety. “Hoosiers for the most part, those of us who call Indianapolis home and live in Central Indiana, our numbers are fairly steady because I think Hoosiers generally have been practicing social distancing. They’ve been practicing good hygiene.”
Officials are still encouraging visitors to maintain social distance and wear masks.
Meanwhile, the city has stressed increased accessibility to protective equipment. Last week the city announced personal protective equipment grants for nonprofits. That effort adds to the protective equipment grants that the Indy Chamber is offering small businesses and the free face masks that the city has offered residents.
Downtown Indianapolis also has been struggling to rebuild following a weekend of riots in May that damaged dozens of businesses following protests over racial inequality and police brutality.
Earlier this week Downtown Indy Inc. announced a Downtown Indy Recovering and Rebuilding Committee that will help downtown recover from the coronavirus recession and attract more Black-owned businesses to the Mile Square.
City-County Council President Vop Osili encouraged residents to shop at minority-owned businesses from the Black and brown community.
“Over the past few months it’s been easy to feel that one individual or one family can’t make a difference in the fight against either the COVID-19 or racial inequity,” he said. “But the truth is you have the power to strike a blow against both by, one, putting on a mask and, two, visiting our Black and brown businesses.”
Frustrated business owners
As Hogsett had a press conference on the patio of Livery restaurant Wednesday, dozens of downtown business owners convened in their own meeting about how to recover on their own.
Some have expressed frustration at the lack of action from the city, noting that Hogsett has not reached out to them.
One key concern: rebuilding the safety of downtown.
People are scared to come downtown, Karnavis said. He closes his business earlier out of fear for what may happen at night.
“We don’t have a lot to offer anymore like we used to,” he said. “More businesses are going out of business. I mean, we’re going to lose conventions. We’re going to lose a lot. And then a million dollars, that’s great, but how are we going to revitalize the city and bring these people back?”
Greg Bires, owner of Windsor Jewelry off Monument Circle, expressed a similar concern over safety. His business was broken into on the first of two nights of the riots, he said.
“I don’t want to go anywhere,” Bires said of his business. “But if the city can’t provide a safe environment for us to operate, how many times can we go through this?”
Groups like the rebuilding committee are good, he noted.
“But we’re in a situation right now where we can’t wait for a focus group to look at things and give us a plan or direction six or eight months from now,” he said. “We need to act now.”
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