Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday announced that new recovery marketing funds are available to destination marketing organizations (DMO) across the Commonwealth that have been heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The WanderLOVE Recovery Grant Program, which is administered by the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), will provide up to 50 grants to DMOs of up to $10,000 each.
“The coronavirus pandemic had an immediate and devastating impact on our tourism industry,” said Northam. “When it is safe to resume travel, we want to equip Virginia destinations with the tools they need to support and promote the diverse communities that travelers love to visit. There will be a lot of demand for leisure travel, and the WanderLOVE Recovery Grants will help towns and cities across our Commonwealth position themselves as an ideal getaway when visitors are ready to get back on the road.”
Tourism is one of the Commonwealth’s largest economic engines, with visitors to Virginia spending more than $26 billion in 2018, supporting 235,000 work opportunities and contributing $1.8 billion in local and state tax revenue. The tourism and hospitality industries have also been among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, experiencing decreased revenue and job loss, along with the temporary closure of many tourism-related businesses. A revived tourism economy can help spur new economic activity and inject critical funds back into Virginia communities.
Based on industry research, in-state and drive-market road trips will be the first to return as restrictions are lifted in Virginia and across the country. Travelers will be seeking safe, close-to-home destinations that allow for social distancing and access to open spaces, specifically beach, outdoor, and rural experiences.
“Tourism is an instant revenue generator for the Commonwealth, and a major contributor to our economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The pandemic has had catastrophic effects on tourism nationwide, and these grants will help get Virginia back on its feet as a premier travel destination.”
WanderLOVE, a new integrated summer campaign created by VTC, will provide travel inspiration for road trips, outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns, and its signature LOVEworks program. Grant recipients will be equipped with creative assets and a toolkit to implement in their own marketing.
Applications for the DMO WanderLOVE Recovery Grant Program open on June 18, 2020 and will close on July 2, 2020. Awardees will be announced by July 15, 2020. Grants are open to any of Virginia’s 114 recognized DMOs. Funds must be used for recovery marketing and may be used for participating in the VTC co-ops, local advertising, out-of-state marketing, and other allowable items. DMOs may apply for DMO Recovery Grants here.
While the DMO WanderLOVE Recovery Grant Program is only open to eligible DMO partners, VTC’s traditional Marketing Leverage Program (MLP) grants will open to all Virginia tourism industry partners in August 2020. For more information, visit https://vatc.org/grants/leverageprogram/.