Only two weeks are left to apply to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for grant funding under the American Rescue Plan Act for Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation.
The EDA aims to assist communities and regions in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s significant negative impact on the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors. The grant program is designed to provide a wide-range of financial assistance to communities and regions to rebuild and strengthen their travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation industry through various infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects.
EDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has already issued $510 million in tourism grants directly to states, including nearly $6 million to Arizona. Another $240 million is set aside for EDA Competitive Tourism Grants to at least 150 applicants.
According to EDA, eligible entities are a public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with a general purpose political subdivision of a State; an institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education; a State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, or a consortium of political subdivisions; an Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes; or a District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District.
Eligible applicants for EDA’s Competitive Tourism Grants are advised to apply no later than Jan. 31, so the agency can review and process the application in time to get a potential award in place prior to deadlines imposed by Congress. Any award is subject to the availability of funds.
Governor Doug Ducey this week announced $101.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to launch the Visit Arizona Initiative, a bold program designed to increase visitation and tourism spending in Arizona, bolster job creation and accelerate economic recovery.
“Tourism is essential for Arizona’s booming economy and job growth,” said Governor Ducey. “When visitors from across the globe travel to our great state, they stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, buy our products and enjoy our recreational activities. Their investments benefit Arizonans, and the Visit Arizona Initiative will help our tourism sector prosper — and continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. My thanks goes to Arizona Office of Tourism Director Debbie Johnson for her dedication to growing tourism throughout the state and supporting Arizonans employed by the travel industry.”
As it did globally, the tourism industry in Arizona endured losses in visitation, visitor spending, tourism tax revenue and employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of federal American Rescue Plan money will assist communities across the state in recovery through tourism marketing, event and attraction support, and outdoor recreation revitalization.
Arizona’s 2020 overnight visitation decreased by 31 percent and visitor spending decreased by 41 percent compared to 2019 numbers, according to recent data. But with this investment and the effectiveness of Arizona’s visitor marketing, Arizona will stay top of mind for travelers.
“Thousands of Arizonans who work in the tourism industry were displaced due to the pandemic. Now that our economy is strong, jobs are readily available and visitors are coming to our beautiful state, we are making sure employment opportunities continue to grow for hard workers across Arizona,” the Governor said.
The Visit Arizona Initiative includes marketing funding for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) statewide, reinvigorating local community programs and events, and marketing support for domestic and international flights and outdoor recreation.
“We are grateful for the investment Governor Ducey is making in our state’s tourism industry, which contributes to the economic vitality of communities and people all across Arizona,” said Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.
The new funding is being warmly received by officials in communities all across Arizona where tourism is an important part of the economy.
“Arizona is a world-class destination and is ready to welcome visitors from around the world to explore our great state. The tourism recovery fund is an investment in a vital economic driver and will benefit all areas of the state,” said Cal Sheehy, Mayor of Lake Havasu City. “We applaud Governor Ducey’s commitment to the tourism economy statewide.”
The Initiative also provides funding to the Arizona State Parks & Trails for park revitalization and improvement, legacy golf course revitalization, the Arizona State Fair for marketing, the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association for a workforce initiative and Local First for rural destination development.
“COVID-19 had multiple impacts on our state’s destinations,” said Bill Nassikas, President & COO of Westroc Hospitality. “This funding comes at a crucial time of our recovery, as we reinvigorate Arizona’s tourism economy and welcome back visitors to our great state. Governor Ducey’s forethought will help keep Arizona tourism competitive on the national stage.”
AOT, along with statewide tourism stakeholders, continues to promote visitation and support industry recovery across Arizona. These efforts include visitor marketing campaigns, supporting industry partners and communities with strategic recovery planning and promoting sustainable and responsible tourism. The new Visit Arizona Initiative will ensure these programs continue and grow to meet the needs of the industry.