Brenda Scolari, director of Nevada’s Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, said the state’s travel industry is moving toward some exciting new developments during a presentation at the weekly statewide call by the Governor’s COVID-19 task force.
Nevada’s two inter-related industries — travel and tourism, and hospitality and service — have been hard hit by the high coronavirus infection rate in the state. But tourism officials have taken steps in the last few months to focus on recovery while prioritizing the lives and safety of Nevadans, she said.
The Nevada Commission on Tourism estimates the travel industry accounts for a quarter of all jobs in the state and travel spending has a $65.5 billion annual impact — a figure that had been growing in recent years.
Scolari said that currently Travel Nevada is supporting local businesses by promoting a new online Nevada Pride Shopping Guide, which is showcasing authentic Nevada goods and produce and quirky, beautiful locations for quick trips. The list gives great alternatives –like star gazing, road trips, rockhounding and mining, ghost towns and hot springs — to traveling in crowded locations and potentially getting infected.
The guide also provides a list of safe places and COVID-19 related guidance to help tourists and locals safely travel and enjoy the getaways and businesses.
A children’s website, DiscoverNVKids.org, was launched as part of the campaign earlier this year. It presents Nevada facts and information in a fun format appropriate for younger children.
Plans and policies
Scolari also talked about policies and strategies that went into the plans for reviving the travel and tourism industry.
“We are encouraged by the first doses of vaccines arriving in Nevada,” said Scolari. The department also closely monitors the information coming from the governor’s office and task force to adjust and fine tune their policies and approach for reviving tourism.
According to Scolari, Travel Nevada released a recovery plan in June. The plan aims to promote Nevada as a desired destination in a competitive tourism landscape, changed by COVID-19.
Travel Nevada also published a rural tourism COVID-19 reopening plan in July for rural tourism partners. This plan offers best practices for reopening in the tourism sector and is updated as health measures evolve, said Scolari.
The Nevada Commission on Tourism launched a Recovery Committee in November. The committee’s goal is to provide feedback on plans related to travel and tourism.
Reviving rural Nevada
One of the main focus of these plans has been reviving the rural Nevada economy. In November, “Travel Nevada distributed $1.65 million in COVID-19 Rural Recovery Grants that were funded through federal Coronavirus Relief Funds,” said Scolari.
The grants went to 55 rural organizations and non-profit groups throughout the state to help them promote that they are open for visitors, and to educate visitors about safety practices in place to keep them safe.
The department awarded $44,921 in volunteer impact program grants to six agencies in rural Nevada communities promoting social distancing, safety measures and education about COVID-19 among the rural communities.
One of the grants in this program was a $6,000 award to the Austin Historical Society to replace old signage at the Austin Museum, according to a Monday press release by the task force. “The new signs included ‘open and safe’ messaging.”
The Churchill Arts Council in Fallon was awarded $16,650 to pay for still photography and long- and short-form videos demonstrating people enjoying the facility while practicing social distancing.
State COVID-19 situation
State of Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage informed Nevadans that the current state of COVID-19 in the community remains high. The task force also remains concerned that large gatherings during Christmas holidays might make the already high infection rate even worse.
The task force continued to recommend social distancing, masking, safe gatherings and handwashing. It also urged Nevadans not to be complacent with safety measures as vaccination is still limited and the situation may change for the worse quickly.
Test positivity rate in Washoe County is still over 20%, which signals a very high level of infection in the community.
According to the state press bulletin the County Criteria Tracker is flagging all counties, with the exception of Storey, as having elevated disease transmission.
- All flagged counties met the criteria of a high case rate per 100,000.
- All counties had a high test positivity rate.
- Lincoln was the only county flagged for a low average number of tests per day per 100,000.
As of today, Nevada has logged 205,884 cases, with the 14-day rolling average of daily cases being 2,049
- The state has completed a total of 1,959,658 molecular tests since the beginning of COVID-19.
- The test positivity rate over the last 14 days is 19.7%.
- While the test positivity rate over the last 14 days is decreasing, the State Office of Analytics believes this modest reduction is due to the Stay at Home 2.0 and the pause restrictions.
- The modest reduction seen now is not expected to continue as Christmas and New Year-expected surges will overlap, resulting in a surge on top of a surge which may exceed this large increase in rates and numbers that have been experienced after the Thanksgiving holiday.
- The current restrictions in place are meant to help mitigate these surges, officials said.
- The Nevada Hospital Association reports there are currently 1,996 COVID-19 hospitalizations (1,807 confirmed; 189 suspected)
Due to the holiday, there will not be a COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force meeting this week.
Sudhiti (Shu) Naskar is a multimedia journalist and researcher who has years of experience covering international issues. In the role of a journalist, she has covered gender, culture, society, environment, and economy. Her works have appeared on BBC, The National, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Reno Gazette-Journal, Caravan and more. Her interests lie in the intersection of art, politics, social justice, education, tech, and culture. She took a sabbatical from media to attend graduate school at the University of Nevada Reno in 2017. In this period, she has won awards, represented her school at an international conference and successfully defended her thesis on political disinformation at the Reynolds School of Journalism where she earned her Master’s in Media Innovation.