Imagine a blissful summer getaway, with golden beaches, cute B&Bs, and luxury resorts. Ice cream cone in hand, you could stroll historic streets and peek into novelty shops. You could sit on a patio – a comfortable distance from other tables – and sip a Bloody Mary as you watch the rolling waves and smell the sea breeze. Where is this paradise, and how do you get there? It’s called Rhode Island. And you’re already in it.
“One of the most special things about South County is that the region is not overly built up and there is so much open space to explore,” says Faye Pantazopoulos, creative director of the South County Tourism Council. “South County’s outdoor spaces are easy to enjoy while still practicing social distancing, and with the new regulations at the beaches, people can still enjoy the beach while keeping a safe distance from others.”
In March, as the pandemic was descending in earnest, the Tourism Council started to develop a new campaign, Find Your Way Back. Louise Bishop, the Council’s president, came up with the phrase, and the team ran with it, developing their website, promotional materials, and a picturesque new video to (literally) drive the idea home.
“It implies what we all hope for,” says Pantazopoulos, “a way back to what was normal before the pandemic, a way back to fun, sun, ocean, and vacation – and of course, our hope that visitors find their way back to South County, Rhode Island.”
Pantazopoulos easily rattles off the familiar benefits of a South County holiday: 100 miles of coastline, 20 public beaches, and some of the warmest waters in New England. She also mentions a handful of activities that even locals often overlook: going clamming, paddling on the water with Narrow River Kayaks, exploring the ruins of an old lighthouse on Whale Rock Trail, among countless other pastimes and day-trips.
Traditionally, the Tourism Council focuses its attention on out-of-staters who travel to Rhode Island to stay in our hotels and savor our food. This year, health concerns and financial hardship have changed the game; fewer travelers are expected to visit, and fewer Rhodies will be able to road trip elsewhere. Pantazopoulos notes that states like New Hampshire and Maine may still have strict guidelines to quell the spread of coronavirus. You may decide to wait on Bar Harbor and the White Mountains, but you can replicate many of those experiences closer by.
And that includes hotels. South County overflows with accommodations of all types, and escaping the confines of quarantine doesn’t have to include passport control or time-zones shifts.
“Our hotels are going above and beyond to make sure guests feel safe, and they’re beginning to open up with extra precautions,” says Pantazopoulos.
For example, Ocean House has put together a plan called “OH Well,” which includes 24-hour buffers between one room occupancy and the next, Molekule air purifiers in every room, and scattered sanitizer stations. Meanwhile, Margin Street Inn has replaced its morning buffet with breakfast delivery, and afternoon cocktails are packaged in portable containers, allowing guests to sip them in isolated nooks.
Adds Pantazopoulos: “A staycation is a great way for Rhode Island residents to get away and explore South County – and to learn to ‘love where you live.’”