State doles out $1.5 million in tourism restoration grants

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Jun. 3—ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp, in partnership with Explore Georgia, the state tourism office within the Georgia Department of Economic Development, announced Thursday the recipients of a special round of Tourism Recovery Marketing Grants. The Explore Georgia Tourism Recovery Marketing Grant program supports marketing efforts to bolster the recovery of Georgia’s tourism industry from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-four destination marketing organizations in 27 counties will receive a combined total of nearly $1.5 million in recovery marketing funding as part of this one-time grant program.

The Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau received one of the grants. (See story on Page 1A.)

Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly approved $1 million in the amended FY 2021 state budget for tourism recovery. Because of the substantial number of grant applications — from 58 organizations totaling nearly $2.5 million in funding requests — Explore Georgia contributed an additional $1 million from the state tourism marketing budget to fund as many grants as possible. The Explore Georgia Tourism Recovery Marketing program also includes $500,000 in co-op matching funds, for a total of $2 million in recovery support.

“A prospering tourism industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and positively impacts the health and vitality of our state’s economy,” Kemp said in a news release. “I’m proud to support our hard-working tourism organizations across the state through this recovery funding. 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.”

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, 90% of travelers now have travel plans in the next six months, which is the highest level in more than a year. Explore Georgia focused on funding marketing programs that can be quickly activated and placed in-market to capture this anticipated increase to take advantage of this opportunity.

“As we head into a summer when we expect to see a tremendous re-emergence of domestic tourism and the economic prosperity that travel brings, the funding of these grants recognizes the importance of communicating the diversity of visitor experiences across Georgia that are close to home for so many Americans,” Deputy Commissioner of Tourism at GDEcD Mark Jaronski said.

The applications were evaluated based on need, quantified by the year-over-year loss in Hotel-Motel Excise Tax collections for the organizations and the change in unemployment in the organization’s county. Grant recipients received 100% of the award amount requested on their applications.