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Lights left on in vacant hotel rooms spell the word "HOPE" at the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center.

I write this during the first week of April. With what has changed in just the past few weeks, it is anyone’s guess what the situation will be by the time this article is published.

Because of a dramatic reduction in traveling, some Bakersfield hotels pivoted from offering their rooms for overnight stays to also offering flexible day rates. This change involved promoting rooms as alternative home offices for those who found their normal home office a bit noisier than usual because of school closures. These properties promoted their large (and quiet) work spaces, free high-speed Wi-Fi and business center assets, such as printers and office supplies.

One hotel that touted its rooms for alternative office spaces was the new Home 2 Suites by Hilton. Denise Taylor-Connor, the hotel’s director of sales, said an advantage her property had was being an extended-stay hotel.

“The kitchen amenities and our full size suites allow comfort while limiting outside interaction with others,” she said. “Another advantage is that we are pet-friendly.”

Taylor-Connor said her hotel’s staff at 8227 Brimhall Road had to be creative while thinking of everyone’s safety.

“We partnered with Modern Grub down the street from us on Calloway and Brimhall because they offer clean, healthy meal preparation and healthy takeout and delivery for our guests,” she said.

While many travelers rely upon hotel rooms, others bring their accommodations with them. At Bakersfield River Run RV Park, manager Ryan Uhles said that RV’s are self-contained, so they allow easy shelter-in-place accommodations.

“We have made some significant changes to our operations,” said Uhles of his park at 3715 Burr St. “We are taking care of business over the phone and are offering curbside delivery or delivering to the site for mail and grocery items. We also installed sinks in each laundry room so that anyone using the laundry room has access to a sink to wash their hands whenever they are doing laundry.”

One change at a large Bakersfield hotel was very visible and welcomed by many. Each night, lights in certain rooms at the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center were left on to spell out the word “HOPE.” The south side of the hotel, located at 801 Truxtun Ave., is visible for several blocks.

Two blocks east of the Marriott, Visit Bakersfield temporarily closed its downtown visitor center on March 20. Signs on the doors directed travelers who stopped by to leave a telephone message and those messages were promptly returned by the visitor center staff.

One traveling couple, visiting in an RV from South Dakota, had visited Bakersfield in the past. They did not have a chance to see the Tehachapi Loop last time but wanted to visit it on this return trip. A Visit Bakersfield staff member was able to provide that information, including suggesting the “Back Roads to the Tehachapi Loop” tour brochure that was available for downloading online.

Those visitors sent back an email that “the driving tour was great! We got to see some great rural country and will be back at some point to investigate the area again.”

With many local residents following stay-at-home orders, Visit Bakersfield unveiled a weekly coloring contest. Each week a new page featuring a popular Bakersfield location was unveiled, with a prize going to the winning entrant. The contest began with the Majestic Fox Theater, with the winner receiving a Two Hour Blaster Expedition Family Fun Pack from Bakersfield’s own River’s End Rafting & Adventure Company, valued at $180.

In addition to helping families through some of the boredom of isolation, the contest sought to educate residents of many notable Bakersfield landmarks, promote local businesses and leverage spending once the stay-at-home orders were lifted.

Several local travel partners also provided educational and entertainment options to those who were homebound. The Kern County Museum posted frequent tours of its notable artifacts led by collections curator Bethany Rice, along with suggestions for at-home projects from the museum’s Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center. CALM, the California Living Museum, posted a variety of videos of its animals, including weigh-in time with raccoons, porcupine chewing on plants and feeding time for a burrowing owl. Those videos, and others, also were shared by Visit Bakersfield to help educate residents about local attractions and amenities.

After all, when travel resumes it will be those residents who will be asked by friends and family about things to see and do in California’s ninth largest city.

David Lyman, Ph.D., is manager of Visit Bakersfield. He and his staff help visitors from throughout the world spend their money and find “The Sound of Something Better” in California’s ninth-largest city. They are available toll-free 866-425-7353 or at Info@VisitBakersfield.com.

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