RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam has announced that more than $866,000 will be awarded to 90 destination marketing organizations (DMO) through the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) new DMO WanderLove Recovery Grant Program announced in June. First Lady Pamela Northam joined VTC leaders and local officials at an event in the City of Alexandria to recognize Visit Alexandria as a grant recipient and highlight the city’s small businesses that are demonstrating resilience in the face of public health and economic crises.
Recovery marketing funds will be awarded to DMOs that have been heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, with each awardee receiving a maximum of $10,000. While the grant program did 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.
“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,” said Governor Northam. “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.”
VTC’s WanderLove campaign launched on June 15, 2020 and provides travel inspiration for road trips, outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns, and its signature LOVEworks program. The campaign was created in response to industry research indicating that travelers will be seeking safe, close-to-home destinations that allow for social distancing and have access to open spaces like beaches, outdoor recreation, and rural experiences. DMO grant recipients will be given creative assets and a toolkit to implement WanderLove in their own marketing.
“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.”
VTC encouraged applicants to develop creative campaigns centered on road trips that can be marketed to 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. A full list of WanderLove Recovery Grant recipients can be found below. To view VTC’s WanderLove launch video, please click here.