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Northam Announces $2 Million In COVID-19 Relief Funding for Virginia Tourism Industry

November 17, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson
Inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor in Maryland. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced more than $1.9 million in matching grants will be awarded to 161 local tourism initiatives as part of Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program. 

The tourism body revised its traditional marketing program, creating the RMLP, in an effort to support tourism initiatives in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In Virginia, the travel and tourism industries are the backbone of our communities and our economy, and they have been among those hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Northam in a public statement. 

“This program will give localities and businesses access to much-needed marketing resources to sustain their operations and ensure the Commonwealth’s many attractions are safe for visitors,” he continued, adding, “These are critical investments that will help to grow demand for Virginia products, drive local spending, and restore additional economic activity as we continue on our road to recovery.” 

The nearly $2 million in grants will go towards local marketing efforts through a local in-kind match of the state grants funds for all of Virginia’s tourism industry partners.  

Approximately $5.6 million of in-kind value from local partners will be matched by the VTC grants, which will allow the RMLP to ultimately help 483 statewide tourism entities

The funding partnership between the Virginia state government and local tourism entities will help mitigate the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Viriginia’s tourism and hospitality sectors.  

According to a recent announcement from the tourism body, Virginia’s tourist visitors helped the state reach $27 billion in revenue in 2019, a notable 3.4 percent increase over 2018. Last year, 237,000 jobs were supported as a result of the state’s tourism and hospitality industry. 

“Travel and tourism play an indispensable role in our economy, and 2019 year was another impressive growth year for Virginia,” Northam said last year.  

“While we celebrate this record-breaking success, we must also acknowledge the immediate and damaging impacts of the pandemic on tourism, which will be reflected in the numbers next year. We know that a revived tourism industry will be crucial to our overall economic recovery and we remain committed to helping it bounce back and emerge from this crisis even stronger.” 

In an effort to help Virginia’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, VTC has launched a multi-phased approach of pivoting business operations and strategies to help spur economic activity in Virginia’s local communities. Since March, VTC has served as a hub of information for travelers and citizens in its recovery messaging and marketing in its three-phased recovery campaign. 

In its first phase, VTC launched “We’ll Be Waiting for You”, a campaign reminding travelers that, “Virginia is – and always will be – a place for love and connection.”  

In Phase II, VTC launched a series of weekly initiatives to help struggling tourism entities. It is during this phase that the tourism body also revised its traditional format of the Marketing Leverage Program (MLP) grant program and launched the VTC Recovery Marketing Leverage Program with amended guidelines to further assist the Virginia travel industry. 

According to VTC, “The Recovery MLP program awards offer one funding level with a maximum award of $20,000 and no longer requires a cash match, instead requiring an in-kind match value.” 

In its current Phase III, VTC recently unveiled its newest campaign called WanderLove, an initiative designed for travelers seeking low-cost, low-risk vacations away from typically crowded tourism spots in Virginia. The VTC WanderLove campaign will continue for the foreseeable future. 

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has upended the tourism industry, which is one of Virginia’s largest sectors,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball.  

“RMLP will inject dollars in every region of the Commonwealth and help the development of new tourism product while getting communities back on their feet,” continued Ball. 

For more information about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Virginia’s tourism economy, visit one of VTC’s latest tourism economics report

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