Corona Virus Response & The Outfitting Industry (March 21 Update)

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10 Things 
Outfitters and Guides Need to Get On Now 

 
March 23 IOGA Newsletter Update
 
Idaho Outfitters and Guides, 

We are facing trying times. The need to stay at home, forgo present travel plans, and practice social distancing in order to limit the spread of Coronavirus and 'flatten the curve' is also already hurting businesses and instilling uncertainty, stress and disruption in our economy and social norms of behavior.

Against this backdrop, the stated mission of our Association rises to the fore. That mission is Uniting Idaho’s Outfitters and Guides, advocating for the preservation, growth and integrity of the outfitting industry while promoting quality outdoor experiences for the outfitted public.

As we work through this together, you can expect to receive more frequent emails from us. And we ask that you OPEN those emails, READ them and TAKE ACTION as we're sharing action items to help protect your business, your family, your clients , our State and this industry.

In today's newsletter, we've outlined key steps/considerations you should take right now to weather this storm. The steps you take today and in the next two weeks will likely be central to your own business as well as our industry in Idaho and nationwide. 

1. Communicate with your clients.
  • Right now our opportunity is to show leadership, responsibility & compassion as businesses and an industry. It is a time to demonstrate our value as businesses, members of our communities and as an industry by helping to inform, inspire, encourage and calm our clients/community and staff. 
  • Reach out to your clients and let them know you're thinking of them. We're all in this together and that approach is the best one we can take. Let them know that you'll be staying in touch with them, that you're here for them, and that you'll be communicating with them going forward.
  • Strongly recommend Travelers Insurance if you do not already do so, and be upfront with clients or potential clients about what your recommended policies, if any, cover and don't cover. 
    • The Coronavirus has been a “known event” since January 22, 2020. This means that many travel insurance plans purchased after that date will not cover cancellations related to the virus. For insurance purchased before that date, whether it will be covered or not depends on the policy. In all cases, “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) insurance is the best avenue, though it may be too late for your guests as there is typically a window of time they can purchase. As you communicate with your guests, make sure they understand the distinctions, especially if you provided a travel insurance option through your website at the time of booking
  • If you are making adjustments in your company policies, communicate that with them.
    • Examples of this could be offering a shorter cancellation period (45 days instead of 60 days, an option to adjust the dates of their stay, etc.), deferment of credit for trip deposits, risk mitigation and hygiene policies/protocols, etc. 
    • Show your clients what steps you are taking to establish CDC-advised measures to accommodate them during this time and into the future. 
  • Review your social media channels and content plans. Make sure you're taking into account the pulse of your followers, deliver them spots of joy in their newsfeed and let them know you're thinking of them. Now is not (yet) the time to 'sell' or expend marketing dollars. To do so is a waste of scarce promotional resources and otherwise 'tone-deaf'. Stop strong CTAs (calls to action) around booking their trip now - instead provide inspiration, a pretty picture with an appropriate caption, etc. 
2. Evaluate your own financial abilities. 
Take the time to sit down and put pencil to paper as you take a clear look at what your business can withstand financially. Map out your financial obligations through the end of the year.
  • Come up with a plan for the worst-case scenario, mid-case scenario and best-case scenario and create actionable steps you can take. 
  • As you work through this, the topic of refunds and policies will come up. As a business, you'll need to decide if you are going to hold onto deposits (per your policy) or if you switch to a different strategy that is softer. For many of you, this will be a decision for you to make personally as it will be directly tied to your ability to make it through this storm. Be sure to take the time to weigh the various implications of each course of action (personal/business economics, reputation risk, client loyalty, etc.). Be sure to put all changes to policies in writing.
  • Importantly, remember that what you do now will affect your clients' perception and opinion of you for years to come.
3. Set up a meeting with your bank. 
After you determine what your carrying costs are going to be for the next 12 to 18 months, and depending on your individual situation, you may want to ask your bank for specific lines of credit and consider renegotiating loans. 

4. Apply for an SBA loan. 
Fill out the paperwork for a Small Business Administration loan. Don't wait to do this. Take the action that's necessary now so you can get the response you need right now. Complete the Economic Injury Worksheets as soon as possible. 
  • The State of Idaho will need responses from small businesses to demonstrate economic injury as determined by the SBA in order to activate Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance. The information received will determine whether impacted businesses will be eligible for disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance.
    • These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). 
  • For more information and to apply online for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan, visit https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email [email protected] for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339.
  • Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155. The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020. For more information about available SBA resources and services, please visit SBA.gov/coronavirus.
  • For any other questions on the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, contact Jerry Miller at [email protected].
  • For alternative submission options, call 208-287-0780.
5. Check your insurance policy for "Business Interruption" Coverage. 
  • This is usually an 'add-on' to comprehensive policies and may provide relief depending on the terms and restrictions of your particular policy, if you purchased that coverage. 
  • As on ongoing testament to their service and connection to our industry, CBIZ Sattler issued a statement on their website speaking to this question:
    • "We understand that there has been a significant impact to the hospitality and sports industries, and your operations may have already been impacted. We realize that you may have questions about Business Interruption insurance or other policy coverages. Since the COVID-19 situation is very unique, insurance companies will interpret each situation on an individual basis.  If you have questions about your policy, we will be happy to discuss them with you. If you need to report a claim, or have questions about a claim you have already reported, please contact us.    Our phone number is 800.615.8418 or you can email [email protected]"
6. Communicate with your land management agencies. 
IOGA has already been doing this and will continue. But every business has unique operations and concerns. So if your business relies on land agencies, reach out to them as soon as possible and see how they are going to work with you. Inquire about the best way to get in touch with them during the next few/several weeks. 

Additional steps you can take: 
  • Ask about the option of having payments moved to a later date, or not paying anything beyond the minimum use fee until after your respective season. (Based on our own outreach to staff/supervisors with BLM and FS, it would seem they are not only open to this but have already been thinking about and discussing it internally.)
  • Inquire about how land use partners and agencies will communicate with you as various factors change on their end as well. 
7. Communicate with your staff. 
Just like you, your staff is feeling the impact of coronavirus. They will be wondering if they have jobs, if they will have the same start date as previously agreed to, etc. As conditions continue to change and evolve, stay in touch with your staff, ask them to practice social distancing and let them know that you are considering them through all of this. Be sure they have the latest information around COVID-19 and let them know what you are doing on their behalf. The more information you can share with them, the better. The Outdoor Industry Association has some useful resources on staff communication and support HERE.

8. Revisit policies that will have an impact in the coming weeks and months. 
Though we have very limited ability to predict what the immediate and near term run and impacts of this will be, experts are estimating that COVID-19 will take time to dissipate. Now is the time, after you've done the steps listed above, to consider and create draft policies on assessing staff health and safeguards, not least client health when they arrive for a trip or experience at your business.
  • If they're sick, you may need to have a policy that will allow you to turn down taking them on a trip.
  • This is also the time to review company policies, regarding:
    • Equipment disinfection (as well as protocols for ensuring that equipment is not shared among clients)
    • On-trip operational Policies/Protocols (THE FOLLOWING ARE EXAMPLES AND NOT OFFICIAL RECOMMENDATIONS), for instance: 
      • If a guest or employee becomes sick during the trip, will that individual be separated from the group (6+ feet apart) and/or be evacuated?
      • Will individuals on the trip be made aware of the potential for them to be quarantined for an indefinite period of time should another individual on their trip become ill?
      • Will facemasks be made available to wear for any individuals on a trip who become ill/show signs associated with the virus?  If such an individual requires caretaking, will you have a policy in place and an employee tasked with tending to them (and does that the employee has a facemask and gloves and observes appropriate precautions)?
9. Contact your Representatives.
We need to get loud and present a unified voice/call for relief for our industry to our congressional delegation and elected officials to implore them to:
  1. Ensure the outfitting and guiding industry is included in any disaster relief loans and programs;
  2. Exempt small seasonal outfitters from paid sick leave requirements as it does not translate well to the industry;
  3. Legislate regulatory flexibility for agencies constrained from some levels of permit flexibility by their own regulations to meet outfitter needs (exceptions to permit regulations can help outfitters reduce the obligatory costs of doing business when we are not operating);
  4. Provide for the deferral of mortgages or other debt obligations
Our Partners at America Outdoors have a convenient outreach tool in place to make it easy for you to contact your representatives on these points. Click HERE to access the tool. It only takes a couple minutes. 

Additionally, here is a Template Letter, with a more personalized and Idaho/community-centric message and the same general 'asks', which you can further personalize with your outfit's information and impacts you are feeling/anticipating.
  • Once filling in the bracketed/bolded portions with your own information, you can submit your letter by mail or else by email form via the email forms on each Congressional Delegate's website. That information can be found and those sites navigated to HERE. 

10. Let IOGA know how we can help you. 
Please contact the IOGA office by calling 208.342.1438 or emailing us at [email protected] or [email protected] with questions or concerns you have. We are committed to seeing this industry through this very difficult time. 


FINALLY: 
STAY POSITIVE AND PROACTIVE
 
"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails."
- John Maxwell
 
The next weeks and months will be a trying time for many businesses. The actions you take now will have a direct impact on how you'll make it through this. Similarly, conscious effort to shape your psychological processing and response during this time is key. Focus on what you can control. Stay positive and productive. Communicate and collaborate with each other and with us.  

Please reach out with concerns, questions and more. We want the outfitting industry to come out of this strong and ready to take people on incredible trips throughout Idaho. 

Additional Information & Resources: 
  • Outdoor Recreation Roundtable is collecting anecdotal stories of the impacts of CORVID 19 on the collective outdoor industry. Email yours to us and we'll send them on.
  • Two or three bills have been or soon will be passed into law in one week’s time to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus. America Outdoors has a great briefing focusing on HR 6201, which was signed into law on March 19, 2020. Read the AOA Summary of HR 6201 HERE.
  • Webinar Recording: Coronavirus & the Outfitting Industry
  • John Hopkins University is maintaining a live, online global tracking dashboard.  Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases
  • The CDC website for travel information. Read more
  • The CDC website for most recent press releases. Read more.
  • Power of the Outdoors During COVID-19 (OIA)
Several of our members have expressed a willingness to serve on a committee focused on informing and supporting IOGA's Coronavirus planning, outreach, response, etc.

Please let me know if you are interested/willing to volunteer. 
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9450 W. Fairview Ave., Ste. #110
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