The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the tourism industry across the world and Destination Missoula is feeling the impact.  Destination Missoula has always focused on bringing people into the community for economic growth, but things have changed. Executive Director Barb Neilan said they are telling people not to come to Missoula right now.

“We are sending people to our websites and to our social media,” Neilan said. “We are asking them to dream, to plan, and to share their memories. We don’t want people to cancel their plans, we just want them to postpone them for the time being. We are still going to be there when all of this is over, but we want people to be healthy and safe for now.”

A lot of people are experiencing cabin fever and it is safe to assume that many people will want to travel when the coronavirus pandemic ends. According to Neilan, the tourism industry should bounce back in a big way.

“The beautiful thing about tourism is that it is one of those industries that can pivot quickly,” Neilan said. “When we start seeing trends coming back and we start seeing people willing to travel again, this industry is going to come back faster than many industries. It will be able to help with the economic development and stability of our community.”

Neilan said they are also focusing on getting the word out about virtual events and ways to stay connected. Last Saturday, Missoula musicians got together and provided the community with a live streaming event called Sequesterfest. It was an all-day event and it included several artists.

“They had a virtual tip jar that allowed you to support these guys,” Neilan said. “They make their living off these live shows and those are gone. We are trying to find ways to support our arts community and our small businesses. We are doing what we can to keep people’s doors open and lights on to get through this.”

Destination Missoula just posted a new webpage that is all about keeping the community educated and motivated. It also has a lot of beneficial information for the essential workers in the community.