Is this state’s $861,080 matching grant program large enough to revitalize its tourism economy after COVID-19 damage?

On August 11, 2021, the state of Virginia announced that $861,080 in matching grants had been awarded to 64 local tourism initiatives as part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Recovery Marketing Leverage Program.

The tourism and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Governor Ralph Northam.

The Commonwealth is stepping in to address the impacts of decreased revenue and job loss, along with the temporary closure of tourism-related businesses. These funds are the latest step in Virginia’s efforts to revive our tourism economy, spur new economic activity, and inject critical funds back into our communities,” he added.

VTC revised its traditional Marketing Leverage Program to create this recovery program in an effort to support tourism initiatives as they respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Recovery Marketing Leverage Program grant application was open to all Virginia tourism industry partners. The awarded funds help local and regional tourism programs leverage limited marketing budgets through in-kind matches of state grants, totaling more than $2.2 million. This program will impact over 380 tourism entities across the Commonwealth.

Visitors to Virginia spent $27 billion in 2019—a 3.4 percent increase from 2018—supporting 237,000 work opportunities and contributing $1.8 billion in state and local taxes.

In 2020, however, there was a major decline in tourism revenues. 2021 forecasts project similar revenue declines.

Funding opportunities, like the Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, are crucial to helping industries in need recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to equip Virginia destinations with the tools they need to support and promote the diverse communities that travelers love to visit,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Many people are eager to go on vacations again, and these grants will help towns and cities across our Commonwealth position themselves for success as visitors get back on the road.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation offered these grants as a way to stimulate re-entry into the marketplace. It will lead to increased economic activity and promote travel across the Commonwealth.

The Recovery Marketing Leverage Program is designed to increase visitor spending through new tourism marketing partnerships and by expanding the “Virginia is for Lovers” brand. Past and present awardees include destination marketing organizations, museums, cultural events, foundations, and private sector businesses.

Photo of Blues & Brews Festival in Staunton, Virginia is by Storm Cunningham.

Learn more about VTC’s industry assistance programs, including the COVID-19 Industry Response Toolkit.

See full list of Recovery Marketing Leverage Program grant recipients (PDF).

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