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The total fluke that helped Las Vegas tourism recover after the 2017 shooting

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When a city experiences a massive crisis, it must find a way to restore its tourism. All cities rely on tourism – it is often one of the top revenue-generating industries and employs one of the biggest workforces.


Vegas Strong

On Sunday, October 1st, 2017, a gunman sprayed bullets into a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas.
58 people were killed. 851 were injured. All but six of the dead were tourists.

It was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in modern U.S. history.

Cathy Tull – the Chief Marketing Officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority – wasn’t in Las Vegas that night. She was in Italy celebrating her 50th birthday.

A woman lights candles at a vigil on the Las Vegas strip following the mass shooting. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

She got the call about the shooting around 6a.m. Italy time. It was hard to absorb the news – but she had to make some quick decisions.

First – within 45 minutes of the shooting, all Las Vegas advertising was pulled. An astounding feat considering how far and wide Las Vegas advertises.

There was a reason that could happen so quickly.

In a complete fluke of timing, Cathy Tull had completely updated the Las Vegas crisis communication protocol – just the week before. She did it simply because it hadn’t been updated in years.

That utter twist of fate allowed her team to spring into action. Tull flew back to Las Vegas immediately. She convened her team to discuss their communication strategy.

Second on the Las Vegas crisis communication list was that the right tone had to be struck.

So Tull’s team listened intently – taking their cues from the public.

The #VegasStrong hashtag was entirely community-driven. (Hector Torres Photography/Submitted by Sunrise Hospital) Almost immediately, a community-driven sentiment appeared on social media: #VegasStrong.

For any city, tourism is critical for the health of its economy. For many, tourism is the 2nd or 3rd most important revenue generator. For Las Vegas, it was number one.

42 million people had visited Las Vegas the previous year. The entire city is supported by tourism. And the rule is – tourists will only go where they feel safe.

Suddenly, Las Vegas wasn’t safe.

The VegasStrong hashtag was gaining momentum. There was a lot of love and support for Las Vegas starting to pour in.

So Cathy Tull and her team started posting user-generated messages of support on the city’s social media channels. They also determined the city itself needed to hear an emotional message from a trusted voice.

A call was made to Vegas resident and tennis star Andre Agassi – who agreed immediately to voice this message:

With that, Las Vegas instantly received over $3 million in media donations.

Tull and her team realized that tourists still wanted to come to Las Vegas – but wanted to be respectful.

Billboards were put up with the VegasStrong hashtag, saying “We’ve been here for you in the good times. Thank you for being there for us now.”

Cathy Tull’s department produced TV commercials starring celebrities welcoming people back to Vegas.

In the three weeks after the shooting, bookings to Las Vegas plunged by over 20%. Then the cancellations began to slow down.

#VegasStrong was an important rallying cry for the city. But Las Vegas had to be careful its identity didn’t become permanently associated with the tragedy.

Marquees on the strip turned black for 11 minutes (the length of the shooting) one week following the massacre. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images) So Cathy Tull did research to see if the “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” campaign could return.

Research showed that people wanted their Vegas back.

Three months after the tragedy, a new “What Happens in Vegas, Stays In Vegas” television commercial was put on the air.= Overseas tourists were the first to come back.

Convention traffic wobbled a bit. But tourism to Las Vegas began a steady climb.

By March of 2018, visitor volume was only down 1% year over year. It was the second busiest March on record.

As Cathy Tull and her team proved, being prepared is half the battle when tragedy hits.


New York Miracle

When the tragic events of September 11, 2001, unfolded, no one was prepared. New York City is the most visited city in North America.

Understandably, tourism plunged after 9/11.

In the year 2000, a record setting 37.4 million tourists visited New York, contributing $17 billion to the city.

In the first days after 9/11, New York lost $324 million in visitor spending. Broadway lost $5 million in ticket sales that week, and five shows closed. Hotels went from 90% capacity to half empty. Restaurants lost an estimated $6-$10 million a day.

When Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was finally able to turn his attention to his city’s economy, he said, “The best thing you can do for our city is to take in a Broadway show.”

So the casts from the top Broadway shows gathered in Times Square to film this commercial:

The sight of all those actors singing their hearts out in Times Square told the world New York could not be broken. That last line – delivered by Nathan Lane – was a very important message to the world.

Just three weeks after the attack, Mayor Giuliani appeared on the season opener of Saturday Night Live. He called SNL a New York institution and said having the city’s institutions up and running sends a message that New York is open for business.

The city’s convention and visitor’s bureau started running print ads saying New York was “Stronger Than Ever.”

Next, advertising agency BBDO offered to write and produce six television commercials – worth more than $10 million – for no charge – in less than a month. Music companies, film crews and editors all offered their services for free.

The campaign featured well-known New York celebrities – who also donated their time.

First, the city began to enjoy what has been termed “patriotic tourism.” Fellow Americans started showing their support by visiting New York again. It would take two years of marketing to attract international tourism back again.

The turning point was 2003 – New York saw its first spike in tourists – 38 million people visited. Then in 2010, a record 48 million people came.

Last year – 17 years after the worst terrorist tragedy on American soil – over 60 million people visited New York City.

It was the eighth consecutive year of record tourism.


For these stories and more from Under The Influence, click or tap on the “Listen” tab to hear the full episode.

You can also find us on the CBC Radio app or subscribe to our Podcast.


Under The Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio – a 1969 Airstream trailer that’s been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O’Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search for the hashtag: #Terstream.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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