– Local tour­ist at­trac­tions are gear­ing up for the gov­er­nor’s go-ahead to start wel­com­ing visi­tors in health-concious ways, pre­pa­ra­tions fueled by hopes that they may have the sum­mer to sal­vage some of the damage the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has reaped on the hos­pi­tal­i­ty in­dus­try.

Though Gov. Tim Walz announced a two-week extension of the state’s stay-at-home ord­er Thursday, Du­luth tour­ism lead­ers are ready to cap­i­tal­ize on the wave of stir-crazy Min­ne­so­tans that may be look­ing for va­ca­tions close to home in the com­ing months.

Vis­it Du­luth, the city’s tour­ism non­prof­it, plans to use taglines like “Lake Superior: Big en­ough for ev­er­y­one” and “it’s time to make new mem­ories.” With the anticipation that health concerns will linger and some families will be forced to tighten their finances, the marketing campaign — right now slated to launch in mid-May — aims to present the city as an easy getaway option for those looking for fun and fresh air.

“When peo­ple start mov­ing around a­gain, they are going to come to Du­luth,” May­or Em­i­ly Lar­son said at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day. “They have to see the lake, they have to see these trails. That is our pull. That is what keeps peo­ple com­ing.”

Even with the new push, city of­fi­cials are pre­dict­ing Du­luth could lose up to 75% of the $12 mil­lion it budg­et­ed for this year’s tourism tax rev­e­nue, which is col­lect­ed from a levy on ho­tels and res­tau­rants and fun­neled back into organizations and events that at­tract visi­tors.

For decades, Duluth has worked to transform itself into a destination for vacationers across the region, through efforts like the revitalization of Canal Park and the building of the Lakewalk.

In St. Louis County, more than 18,000 resi­dents ap­plied for un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance in the last month, a quar­ter of which work in the food, drink and hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tors.

“Our in­dus­try is hurt­ing deep­ly,” said Anna Tanski, pres­i­dent of Vis­it Duluth.

Hotel oc­cu­pan­cy rates have been av­er­ag­ing a­bout 20%. The Du­luth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) won’t see $2.5 mil­lion due to events can­cel­ed from March through Au­gust. Grand­ma’s Mar­a­thon, which usually brings thou­sands of visitors and $10 mil­lion of eco­nom­ic ac­tiv­i­ty to Du­luth each June, was called off.

While year-round residents of vacation spots rushed to discourage visitors at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak — particularly those in less populated areas with more limited hospital resources — they’re now starting to confront the challenge of having to draw people back despite looming uncertainty about the threat the coronavirus will continue to pose. Summer is Duluth’s busiest season, and traffic this year could give a much-needed boost to businesses.

“We need to gently remind people that it’s OK to start planning and that it is safe to start planning,” Tanski said. “Because we will be able to welcome visitors in the not-too-distant future.”

Re­open­ing plans in­clude meas­ures that pro­mote public health. Vista Fleet, which offers cruis­es on Lake Su­pe­ri­or, is plan­ning to re­duce the ca­paci­ties of its boat tours. The Lake Su­pe­ri­or Zoo is de­vel­op­ing new vis­i­tor poli­cies that will keep hu­mans and ani­mals so­cial­ly dis­tant from one an­oth­er.

They also fac­tor in ex­pect­ed fi­nan­cial troub­les. Spirit Mountain Executive Director Brandy Ream said if its ad­ven­ture park opens at all this sum­mer, it will like­ly only be op­er­at­ing three days a week.

Tanski en­cour­aged Duluthians to ask their fed­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ex­pand el­i­gi­biity for more stim­u­lus fund­ing to as­so­ci­a­tions like Vis­it Du­luth, which can cur­rent­ly only ap­ply for one co­ro­na­vi­rus loan pro­gram. Lar­son said she was speak­ing with state legis­la­tors Thurs­day a­bout bond­ing re­quests re­lated to tour­ist at­trac­tions like the DECC and Spirit Mountain.

“We are look­ing un­der all rocks,” Lar­son said, “to see if we can ad­just our pay­ments so that we could keep as much mon­ey cir­cu­lat­ing with the local ec­on­omy as possible.”