Josh Noble’s work seemed to come to a standstill on March 21, but the tourism service manager for the City of Kingman, Arizona, has manufactured plenty of jobs for himself and his staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We operate a visitor center on Historic Route 66, and we’re usually open seven days a week, assisting up to 200,000 visitors annually,” Noble says. “The closure—and the change in pace—caused a rethink about how our team could continue being productive.”
The Kingman team—two full-time staff, four part-timers, and an intern—have turned their efforts to their database, their facility, and the neighbors they represent.
In February (pre-COVID), the city had designated motorcoach parking spaces downtown, close to several locally owned restaurants that can accommodate large groups. With the extra time caused by the closure, one team member has been building a database of tour operators and motorcoach companies that have visited Kingman, and he informs them about the improved access to downtown.
“Ed Rowley has been diligently going through our records of visiting tour groups, referencing our NTA membership directory, reaching out to the companies, and building a detailed contact list,” Noble says.
Other staff members are refreshing and rearranging the lobby and gift shop in the Powerhouse, a century-old former electrical power plant that houses the city’s visitor center.
“Repurposing this industrial-style building as a visitor center has always taken some ingenuity, and now we’re moving gift shop displays, relocating flat screen monitors, adding wall murals, moving security cameras, and adjusting lighting,” Noble says. “All of these tasks are much simpler and safer without scores of people wandering around the building.”
The team’s focus that is perhaps the biggest departure from DMO duties might also be the most utilized—and the most appreciated.
“We created a special web page with COVID-19 updates that informs the community—both residents and travelers—of special hours at essential shopping locations and pharmacies, especially for seniors and those with an immunodeficiency, as well as restaurants that are offering delivery and takeout options,” Noble says.
The compilation of this information began with daily calls to each store and restaurant and then settled into weekly check-ins. Noble says his team also added a list of activities that people can safely do to ward off cabin fever as they wait out the coronavirus void. To maximize his crew’s efforts, Noble promoted the website through print and digital ads in the local newspaper.
It’s been a journey, for sure.
“Without our regular traveler and bus traffic, this has been an otherworldly experience,” Noble says.
But the experience has helped the city. In the midst of a pandemic, Kingman’s Powerhouse team stepped outside of their normal duties and made major, meaningful strides.
Photos by Kingman Visitor Center