At a time when the national travel and tourism industry has been reeling from the Covid pandemic, Visit Quad Cities is launching a new weekly radio show to air on WOC 1420 AM on Saturdays at 10 a.m., beginning Oct. 3.

The half-hour show (called QC Current, based on the Mississippi River and current events) will tell the untold stories of this “must-experience riverfront destination,” according to a Tuesday release from the destination management group.

Dave Herrell is president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities.

Through in-depth interviews with Quad Citizens – starting with VQC president/CEO Dave Herrell — listeners will learn more about little-known local history, new innovations, and unexpected entrepreneurs who capture the energy, culture, and spirit of the Quad-Cities.

“Stories about real Quad Citizens and the positive impact they make every day on our regional destination was the reason for creating this show,” Herrell said. “Building from within and improving our bragability factor in the Q-C is important to our future direction. Our values are set in people, partnerships, and personality and we are grateful for the team at iHeart Media for working with us to develop a platform to highlight tourism, our visitor economy, and its importance to the Quad-Cities.”

Future guests will include Ryan Burchett of Mississippi River Distilling Company; Leah Cafarelli and Dan Breidenstein of Living Lands and Waters, and Tiphanie Cannon of Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie.

The show is hosted by Hannah Ginder, Visit Quad Cities Digital Media Storyteller. Originally from Minnesota, she came to Iowa to attend Drake University, receiving her B.A. in Radio & TV Production in 2017.

Ginder joined the Visit Quad Cities team last year after working for Meredith Corp. in Des Moines as a producer and editor, and focuses on VQC’s social media and online presence. She was part of the massive overhaul of the website visitquadcities.com, which went live in April.

“The Q-C has some really unique stories to tell,” Ginder said. “I’m excited to sit down with our great lineup of guests to bring those stories to life. Whether you’re a long-time Quad Citizen, recent transplant, or visitor to the Q-C, you’ll learn something new.”

If you miss one of the QC Current shows on WOC 1420 AM, it will be available for streaming on the iHeart Media app the week following its air date and on VisitQuadCities.com.

Through research by Resonance as part of the region’s Tourism Master Plan process, only roughly half (48%) of residents agree that they brag about living in the Quad-Cities. However, 93% of Quad Citizens feel that tourism has a positive impact on the region and 83% of

Hannah Ginder is the new host of the weekly QC Current radio show.

residents are likely to encourage friends and family to visit the region.

QC Current promotes these local quirky, genuine stories that are an integral part of where we’ve come from, who we are, and where we’re going, Herrell said.

“It’s why, from a future positioning perspective for our region, why it’s an integral force for recovery; for growth, talent, all these things we talk about,” he said. “Having that platform we can do on a weekly basis, then also on social, be able to integrate that on our social platforms, and it can live on our website.

“It just gives us a really good mouthpiece and platform to talk about tourism,” Herrell said. “You need to do things that are constantly promoting your visitor economy, and if you’re not building the destination from within, you’re doing a disservice to your community.

“Our customer is really the Quad Citizen,” he said. “We want people in the Quad-Cities to know the great things that are happening here, and if we can tell those stories and the variety of sectors we serve — and we serve a lot — that’s only going to help the locals understand how important that visitor economy is to them – why it’s critical that they support it, and become connected to it.”

“The challenge is, they don’t necessarily understand why it’s important to them,” Herrell said of tourism. “If we can do that through our messaging and communications and platforms like a radio show, or digital media and social, that’s something we need to build into our annual work plan, and continue to foster and cultivate.”

Q-C tourism figures for 2019 showed year-over-year positive growth, with $954 million in travel-related expenditures and helps position the region for an economic recovery. The region supports 8,270 tourism-related jobs (including hotels, bars, restaurants and attractions), including 6,500-plus hotel rooms.

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Travel Association said such an economic recovery will not be possible until Congress prioritizes emergency relief legislation for all segments of the travel industry.

A staggering $360 billion—or $2 billion per day—has been drained from the overall U.S. economy since March as a result of decreased travel demand due to the pandemic, according to research prepared by Tourism Economics.

“We have not done a full assessment here locally yet, because it’s so challenging to try and keep up with, and not having our own research department – it’s a difficult thing to accomplish,” Herrell said.

“We know it’s sizable, but if you look at the national numbers, you’re talking over $400 billion in losses,” he said. “It is the Great Depression for the travel and tourism industry, not only in losses to the economy, but more importantly, job loss.

“Locally, we know there’s an impact,” Herrell said. “The amount of events that had to be canceled, postponed, you’re in the hundreds. So, it’s too challenging for us to try and extrapolate a number. The more prudent thing to do is, once we get through it, we can do some third-party assessment and analysis, so we can get a feel for the overall impact, because it’s not over yet.”

Restaurant Week moves to the fall

 With all the challenges faced by Q-C restaurants, Visit Quad Cities has moved up the annual QC Restaurant Week (which is usually in late winter) to the fall, from Oct. 11 to 24.

Any restaurant can take part in the promotion, at no cost, and can register until Oct. 5 at qcrestaurantweek.com.

“Typically, Restaurant Week has been in that February/March time frame, since that’s when restaurants usually don’t have that much foot traffic due to weather,” Herrell said. “It’s been an investment opportunity for them, since they get some promotional play out of it. They’ve

QC Restaurant Week will be held Oct. 11 to 24.

had to pay into that program and we get promotional partners to assist.”

This year, it will last for two weeks and offered free for the businesses.

“We felt for us, that was something we wanted to do to create value for the restaurant industry,” Herrell said. “We know we’re going into the colder months, and if we could get some people in the fall to get connected to our restaurants and support them – we want people in restaurants. That was really the rationale for creating another fall opportunity.”

That sector also is struggling due to the pandemic.

“We’ve been incredibly pleased with how they’ve been agile, how they’ve adapted to the challenge of the pandemic,” Herrell said. “The creativity that’s coming out, in terms of how they’re operating their business. We know they’re hurting; people need to understand, these are local small businesses. A lot of times, they’re family-owned and operated and they’re just trying to get through.”

The Little Brown Box Delicatessen, 1524 River Drive, Moline, is a new addition to QC Restaurant Week.

“They’re kind of going month to month as it relates to operating,” he said. All the staff are “such a critical piece of the hospitality industry and they need to be supported,” he added. “We want people to always remember that local is first, and if we can create some systems and hopefully some opportunities for our local businesses to survive and thrive, then it’s something we’re gonna do.”

“During the last several months, they have been incredibly creative, agile, and resilient and we need these small businesses to survive and thrive again,” Herrell said. “Local restaurants make communities unique and we are fortunate to have so many as part of our regional destination.  We encourage all Quad Citizens and visitors to experience and support our Q-C restaurant scene.”

For eight years, Visit Quad Cities has traditionally held Restaurant Week in February. There are currently 18 eateries highlighted on www.qcrestaurantweek.com, and new restaurants will be added.

During Restaurant Week, you have a chance to win a smorgasbord of local restaurant gift cards. All you have to do is purchase a meal from one of the QC Restaurant Week restaurants between Oct. 11-24 and show a receipt, photo of you at the restaurant, or pose with your carryout meal by filling out an online entry form.

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You must be at least 18 years old to enter, and the deadline to enter this contest is Friday, Oct. 30. The winner will be announced the first week of November on the Quad Cities Facebook page.

New website is critical

Herrell said some people told him he was nuts to launch the updated website during the pandemic. “For us, why not? Why wouldn’t we take that opportunity,” he said Tuesday. “One of Hannah’s responsibilities in working on our brand team, is the development of the website. The website is really our front porch.”

“Visit Quad Cities and our digital platform experience is integral to how we build our brand, sell and share our regional destination’s story and serve as an important community resource for content,” Herrell said.

The website’s new design features seamless navigation to help consumers learn about the region, and vibrant images and new video content give a positive first impression.

“Even though we are in the midst of a challenging time for the travel and tourism industry, Visit Quad Cities is working hard to keep the Q-C brand top of mind,” said Charlotte Doehler-Morrison, Vice President, Marketing & Communications.

“When it is safe to travel again, we need to ensure that the Quad-Cities story continues to be promoted to visitors and celebrated by Quad Citizens.”

Whether it’s for travel inspiration or for travel planning, people are searching online, so the site is critical, she said.

According to Destination Analysts, 60% of people are using their mobile phone for planning. The new site uses responsive design so it will

Dave Herrell is president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities.

adjust to various devices.  In 2019, Visit Quad Cities had 400,000 visitors to its website, and 72% were using a phone or tablet to access it.

One important tool on the site is the Trip Planner function.

This interactive option allows visitors to build a personalized itinerary of attractions, hotels, shops, event venues, restaurants, etc. they’d like to go to on a future visit. As they browse the website, each listing has a “Save to My Trip” button so people can keep track of the places they are interested in visiting later. Their trip planner list can be edited, saved, printed, and emailed.

The QC Current radio show is currently scheduled to air on Saturday mornings through the end of December, with the option to continue the program into 2021.

For the radio show, VQC encourages the public to suggest future guests, Herrell said.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.