When the pandemic hit and closures began to occur, I loved seeing how businesses were shifting their models to still serve customer needs — whether it was launching an online store, now offering delivery, or coming up with an entirely different product or service line.
Shopping at and supporting small businesses is a huge part of what I regularly blog and post about on social media. So is tourism and travel!
So as businesses pivoted, I also wondered how tourism boards or travel-focused and travel-dependent organizations might also shift gears.
Virtual museum exhibits and livestreams have been popping up locally and around the world, recipes for popular foods you might have typically tried by visiting attractions in person have been shared for you to try creating at home, and now we’re seeing the start of online festivals like #VermilionOnline: a virtual festival that invites you to experience, celebrate, and support the local businesses and attractions of the central Alberta town located just two hours east of Edmonton.
#VermilionOnline is a first-of-its kind festival that first took place on Facebook Wednesday, April 22, where throughout the day local shops and experiences were shared through live videos hosted right on the event page. It happens again on Wednesday, April 29 and throughout May.
I explored Vermilion for the first time last fall (where I blogged 8 spots to visit in Vermilion’s charming downtown), and fell in love with the local shops!
I was happy to partner with ZenSeekers this time around as well to participate in #VermilionOnline, watch live video tours from Vermilion businesses, and support the town even if I can’t actually physically be there by shopping — with festival discounts — online.
Here are just a few of the fun videos from the first-ever #VermilionOnline on April 22, and a few reasons you should attend virtual festivals as they become more popular!
Be sure to also check out #VermilionOnline coverage on ZenSeekers.
Get some inspiration for ‘quarantine looks’ from Fresh Apparel:
If you’re interested, a couple of the businesses featured in the April 22 online festival are offering discounts for if you shop at their stores online:
- MACK Modern Age Clothing for Kids: Receive 15% off your online order by using promo code ZEN15
- Fresh Apparel: 30% off Men’s Items until end of Sunday, April 26 plus be entered for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate for every purchase of $50 or higher.
I truly believe that this type of online festival / local business and artist showcase is a wonderful way for tourism and travel-related industries to try and keep the spotlight on what their region has to offer—while you’re safely from your home!
Of course it’s not the same as being there! But it’s a really nice pivot (is pivot going to be the 2020 word of the year? lol) and I hope to see more “festivals” and live / virtual tourism “events” like this moving forward. I imagine as these become more common, the experiences themselves will become better and better too!
Here’s 3 reasons you should attend virtual festivals:
- It’s (probably) free or low-cost. I don’t think it’s realistic for all virtual events to be free but depending on the programming too, it makes sense that virtual events will be more affordable to attend.
- It’s convenient to “attend.” Dress up if you like but if you’re dressed down, that’s totally cool too! Miss something live? You’ll be able to easily catch up. LOVED something? Easily share and re-watch!
- It’s keeping businesses and the industry alive during a difficult time. The first #VermilionOnline was more business focused, and it was awesome to highlight local shops and encourage residents and “tourists” alike to support the biz. I know for upcoming online festivals, the Town of Vermilion is trying to line up artists, performers and other entertainment to really add to that festival vibe.
Social networks like Facebook are already announcing new features they’re making to help organizations and creators put on virtual events so expect to see more of these the longer we stay home.
The Town of Vermilion, along with ZenSeekers (good job on innovating, guys!) will be hosting several versions of #VermilionOnline Festival into May, sharing live streams of different businesses, live performances and other experiences throughout the day on Facebook. Be sure to tune in!
As we begin to adjust to this “new normal,” I think we’re going to see that it doesn’t mean we can’t necessarily “travel” and explore Alberta, or even shop and support businesses. It just means that travel and experiences, and how we support local businesses, artists and organizations, will look a bit different.
Brina Kiziak with the Town of Vermilion, says after the success of their first-ever online festival, it’s likely Albertans will see this format of festival happen across the province.
“It’s a positive, interactive and exciting way to highlight the great things happening in a community. We saw a high level of interest, participation and have had a steady stream of really positive feedback from both the entrepreneurs and community,” Kiziak says.
“I do think we will see other tourism boards or regions following suit, hosting their own version of the #VermilionOnline Festival.”
It would certainly be welcome!
Disclaimer: This blog post was shared as part of a paid partnership with ZenSeekers to highlight the first-ever #VermilionOnline Festival featuring businesses and experiences in Vermilion, Alberta. This does not impact opinions stated in the post. I loved visiting Vermilion and its shops back in fall 2019 and am happy to support now too!