Patrick County is among localities expected to receive funds from a $50 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) appropriation by Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia General Assembly, according to Sandra Belcher,
The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) received the funds that will be used to assist in the revitalization of Virginia’s tourism industry with financial resources to overcome the negative impact of COVID-19 and support attracting the visitor to destinations across the state.
The agency plans to direct a majority to the 133 Virginia localities through the ARPA Tourism Recovery Program to be designated for tourism marketing, media, public relations, sales, and product development for their respective destinations. Available funds will be allocated to each county and independent city based on the relative share of the locality to total state tax revenue attributable to tourism in 2019, from VTC’s annual Economic Impact of Visitors in Virginia report completed by the US Travel Association.
“This appropriation is an opportunity to the statewide tourism industry with its continued recovery efforts,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “The localities and DMOs for each destination will be able utilize these much-needed funds to help drive increased visitation and revenue generation.”
Localities will be encouraged to work with its destination marketing organization (DMO) to submit a plan on how the allocated funds will be spent, which will include reporting and documentation requirements necessary to meet the federal instructions related to the appropriate uses of the funds.
Belcher said funds must be spent on marketing the county via “digital and print ads, billboards, radio, TV, and other marketing initiatives that attract tourists to our beautiful county.”
She anticipates Patrick County will receive a percentage based on the total state tax revenue attributable to tourism in 2019, which was $1,643,005.
The amount of funds the county receives “will not be as much as larger counties in Virginia but will help catapult at least one marketing project into fruition that has been discussed for years,” Belcher said.
The ARPA Tourism Recovery Program will be administered by a third-party business management service that specializes in disaster funding programs, along with VTC providing oversight and serving as a liaison to Virginia localities and DMOs, with 50 percent of allocated funds available upon approval of the locality’s plan and the remaining funds will be distributed upon receipt of adequate documentation of payments for those expenses. Though the localities can create their own plan for using their ARPA grant funds, VTC has also created partner buy-in opportunities for localities that include media buys, production needs, and customizable creative. A series of educational and training webinars for recipients are scheduled during October.
The VTC has also dedicated $2 million of these funds to a meetings & convention incentive program and to a sports marketing incentive program, both of which to be used for event incentives specifically targeted at attracting new meetings and competitive sporting events to spur economic activity and travel across the Commonwealth.
The COVID-19 global pandemic decimated the travel industry in 2020 and imposed a devastating strain on Virginia’s hotels, restaurants, attractions, and communities. As the Commonwealth continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19, the pandemic’s effect on Virginia’s economy only further emphasizes that statewide economic revival cannot occur without the recovery of the travel industry, which the designated funds will help support.
For more information on the ARPA Tourism Recovery Program, visit vatc.org/arpa.