RICHMOND — Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Wednesday that grants of $10,000 each will be awarded to the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and Bath County through the Virginia Tourism Corp.’s new DMO WanderLove Recovery Grant Program.
Recovery marketing funds totaling $866,504.50 will be awarded to DMOs that have been significantly impacted by the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
Each awardee will be receiving a maximum of $10,000.
“Tourism is one of the largest sectors of Virginia’s economy, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the industry,” Northam said.
“Travel will look different for as long as this virus is with us, and many Virginians are seeking getaways that are closer to home. The WanderLove Recovery Grants will help our localities prepare for a rebound in tourism, market their destinations as safe and accessible, and drive new economic activity as we gradually welcome visitors back to our commonwealth,” he said.
Even though the grant program does not require a cash match, destinations have pledged a collective in-kind match of more than $3 million.
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.
VTC’s WanderLove campaign was launched on June 15 and it provides travel inspiration for road trips, outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns and its signature LOVEworks program.
“The WanderLove Recovery Grant was designed to stimulate economic activity this summer and beyond for travelers as they cautiously resume travel,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Virginia destinations have worked incredibly hard to ensure the health and safety of its citizens and visitors. The WanderLove campaign is a great way to showcase a fun, relaxing Virginia vacation while also staying safe.”
The Virginia Tourism Corp. encouraged applicants to develop creative campaigns centered on road trips that can be marketed with both in-state and out-of-state travelers.
For example, Floyd County will use WanderLove funds for a comprehensive, community-wide program to assist local businesses in developing itineraries that highlight the best of Floyd. Charlottesville, in addition to promoting local attractions, will engage with the Northern Neck Tourism Commission and Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority to do cross-promotion and drive visitation to all parts of Virginia. Loudoun County will develop a digital toolkit to generate awareness and excitement about WanderLove among its local business community.
In 2018, visitors spent $26 billion, which supported 236,000 work opportunities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes.