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Don’t Sleep on Cincinnati

a close up of a coffee cupEvery now and then, I need a wake up call. When I start to take something for granted, I need someone to snap me to attention. I’m not talking about gratitude for food, shelter, and clothing, but rather I need to simply appreciate that I live in Cincinnati, OH.

In the last year, I have broadened my thinking by becoming active in a network of food tour operators from around the country. During bimonthly Zoom roundtables with Global Tours Connect, I have come to know small business owners from Juneau, AL to Key West, FL. We have shared ideas and consoled each other to get through a global pandemic that threatened to destroy the travel and tourism industry.

My wake up call came when I realized that only a handful of tour operators have been able to offer in-person experiences during the last year. In most parts of the country, local and state regulations prohibited such gatherings, or restaurant capacities restricted numbers to such a point that it was impossible to operate. I realized the Cincinnati region was one of the few places that afforded me the opportunity to continue business as somewhat usual.

a couple of people that are sitting on a benchAlthough our restaurant capacities were limited by state regulations, Cincinnati government officials, non-profits, and corporate leaders rallied together to offer loans, grants, and incentives to maintain traffic to local businesses. Kudos to the City of Cincinnati and local non-profit 3CDC for acting quickly to install temporary barriers and close streets to allow more outside dining. Media partners led by Cincinnati Experience told the stories of creative ways small businesses were continuing to operate. Outdoor heaters were funded to maintain momentum during the colder months, and a city-wide #SaveLocal campaign was launched in early 2021. Now that spring has arrived, permanent “streateries” have been installed in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood to offer more sidewalk dining in expanded, permanent spaces. And, yes. Vaccines are being distributed and administered quickly, and a feeling of new energy is pulsating throughout the region.

As I think about our community efforts, I realize that the rallying cry here in Cincinnati was not “Oh no. We can’t open!” But rather, the response here to the pandemic has been “How can we stay open?” Of course we lost a few local businesses along the way, but the cooperation, creativity, and old-fashioned hard work combined to save hundreds of others.

Don’t take it for granted. Our restaurant and tourism industries still desperately need you. If you live nearby, support your Cincinnati area businesses. If not, come visit. When you’re ready to expand your travels, check out Global Tours Connect to see how you can support one of my network of tour operator friends.

It takes all of us to SAVE LOCAL. Here, there, and everywhere.