Remember the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, whose liberal owner booted White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders while she dined there?
The controversial decision, which ignited a firestorm of controversy on social media, has had a drastic effect on the local community in Lexington. It’s been so bad, in fact, that a regional tourism board has been forced to dip into emergency funds to cover for a significant tourism downturn.
What are the details?
According to the Roanoke Times, the area’s regional tourism board is pulling together emergency funds to recover Lexington’s image and boost its digital marketing.
The Rockbridge Regional Tourism agreed to spend an additional $5,000 per month to help recover the area’s image.
Money raised for the fund is normally saved, but local officials agreed the area is “in desperate need of positive coverage” following the Sanders controversy, The Associated Press reported.
Indeed, Patty Williams, the board’s director of marketing, told the Roanoke Times that the tourism office is still receiving angry calls and letters directly related to the Sanders controversy. That’s after the board initially fielded thousands of angry calls in the immediate days after the incident.
“For a town our size, it was a significant impact,” Williams said.
Just last Thursday, the board received a letter from a Georgia family vowing to never return to the area, directly blaming the Sanders incident, Williams explained.
What does the board plan to do?
Overall, the board plans to engage in an online marketing campaign aimed at spreading positive messages about the Lexington area.
“We would certainly try to portray ourselves as a friendly, welcoming place,” Williams said. “And focus our marketing toward accomplishing that goal.”
More specifically, the board will conduct a “perception survey.” The survey will target residents of larger markets in the area — Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke — to gauge whether the Sanders incident will affect their decision to travel to the Lexington area.
Also, three other surveys will gather information on those who stay in area hotels, the activity and spending habits of visitors, and people who research the area, yet never visit.
Responses to the surveys will help the board best determine where to direct resources, Williams said.