About three dozen organizations in Georgia will receive nearly $1.5 million combined for marketing as part of a grant program to restore tourism in the state, Gov. Brian Kemp and state officials announced.
Kemp said 34 marketing organizations in 27 counties would receive the one-time grants from the Explore Georgia Tourism Recovery Marketing Grant program. Economic officials said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a drop in tourism across the state.
“These grants are an important tool for our industry organizations, the majority of which are small businesses, to begin their recovery efforts,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said. “We are dedicated to rebuilding travel and tourism across our state because Georgia’s diverse economy cannot fully recover until our tourism and hospitality industry is thriving once again.”
Wilson told lawmakers in January that Georgia had lost billions of tourism dollars and had seen massive industry job loss because of the health crisis. Budget writers approved $1 million in the advertising campaign and marketing grants for local development agencies in the 2021 fiscal year budget.
Before the pandemic, Georgia saw an economic benefit of $69 billion from tourism and more than 486,000 people were employed in the industry statewide, Wilson said. He believed tourism job loss accounted for a high percentage of the state’s unemployment rate.
Because of the need, economic officials received a “substantial number” of grant applications – from 58 organizations totaling nearly $2.5 million in funding requests, they said. The Explore Georgia Tourism Recovery Marketing program also includes $500,000 in co-op matching funds, for a total of $2 million in recovery dollars.
The Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Visit Columbus in Muscogee County made the maximum grant request of $100,000 each.
“A prospering tourism industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and positively impacts the health and vitality of our state’s economy. I’m proud to support our hardworking tourism organizations across the state through this recovery funding,” Kemp said. “The tourism and hospitality community needs our support more than ever, and this funding will provide the immediate marketing assistance they need to make sure that Georgia is on the minds of eager travelers.”
Deputy Tourism Commissioner Mark Jaronski said domestic tourism is expected to increase during the summer. According to a recent Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, about a quarter of travelers have trips planned for next month. Another half have trips scheduled in the next five months.
“The pent-up demand for travel after more than a year of lockdown is obvious in the most-recent data,” President and CEO of Longwoods International Amir Eylon said. “Americans are confident that they can once again travel safely, and they are hitting the road this summer.”
This article was originally posted on Georgia counties to receive $2M to boost tourism