Program will generate more than $1.9 million in marketing initiatives, support more than 1,300 jobs, and impact more than 650 statewide tourism businesses and entities
RICHMOND, VA — Governor Glenn Youngkin announced today that more than $757,000 in matching grant funds will be awarded to 131 small businesses, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), downtown business associations, and chambers of commerce as part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Microbusiness Marketing Leverage Program (MMLP).
The program is designed to leverage local marketing dollars with matching state funds to increase visitation and traveler spending in the off-season. This funding cycle, local partners will commit more than $1.1 million in private-public sector funds to match the VTC funding, providing more than $1.9 million in new marketing activity focused on small businesses and off-season visitation. Funding will be awarded to 131 marketing programs, ultimately impacting 655 combined partners, and supporting more than 1,300 jobs.
“Driving tourism during the off-season is part of our strategy to grow Virginia’s economy,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “These programs will help bring in year-round overnight visitation which will support small businesses and jobs in localities across Virginia. In 2022, the tourism industry supported more than 210,000 jobs in Virginia and travelers spent over $83 million per day in Virginia, and we will continue to grow thanks to these programs.”
“Virginia Tourism’s Microbusiness Marketing Leverage Program provides the tourism industry with the tools they need to succeed and thrive in an incredibly competitive landscape,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “Tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry in Virginia, and it is imperative that we are able to market the abundance of travel experiences across the Commonwealth year-round and invite travelers to discover for themselves why Virginia is for Lovers.”
The VTC Microbusiness Marketing Leverage Program is designed to increase visitor spending by leveraging limited marketing dollars, to stimulate new tourism marketing through partnerships, and to extend the Virginia is for Lovers brand to drive off-season visitation. Using the hub and spoke tourism model, five Virginia entities partner financially to apply for funding. Partners may consist of Virginia cities, towns, counties, convention and visitors’ bureaus, chambers of commerce, other local or regional destination marketing organizations, private businesses, museums, attractions, cultural events, and other tourism-related businesses.
The VTC Microbusiness Marketing Program was created in 2022 to provide marketing funding to target off-season visitation to tourism-oriented small businesses with less than 20 full-time employees. Designed to drive overnight visitation during fall, winter, and early spring, the program provided up to $10,000 in matching dollars for marketing initiatives. Small businesses were eligible for up to $5,000, while DMOs, downtown business associations, and chambers of commerce were eligible for up to $10,000.
“With the grant funding, we will be able to broaden our marketing horizons and share our Five Over 5000 Challenge to hikers across the Blue Ridge,” said Sarah Gillespie, Executive Director, Smyth County Chamber of Commerce. “We will now be able to highlight not only our natural resources, but also promote our small businesses in a new, unique way. As the Smyth County Chamber of Commerce and HL Bonham Regional Tourism Center operators, we can cross-promote our natural assets and small businesses during the shoulder season and highlight Smyth County as a hiker-centered weekend destination. While attracting tourists during the shoulder season, we will be able to entice them to visit again across the seasons and give our small business a boost when they need it most.”
“Late Fall and early Spring are slower seasons for Adventure Damascus Bicycles and Sundog Outfitter,” said Anna-Blake Wright, Co-Owner, Adventure Damascus. “Our Do It in Damascus campaign allows us to encourage families to explore the outdoors through bike riding and also venture through Damascus to other small businesses, restaurants, and rental properties in downtown and along the Virginia Creeper Trail. Not only will these marketing funds bring in more visitors to the trail, but we also hope they will allow us to show folks all of Adventure Damascus’s hiking gear, biking supplies, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.”
“Small businesses are the heart of our coastal community and the off-season months from the late fall to the early spring can be a challenge as visitation decreases,” said Emily Machen, Director of Marketing, Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission. “With this partnership, we are confident that we will support visitation to Virginia’s Eastern Shore during these months to bolster our businesses. This campaign will show our potential visitors just how special a week on the Shore can be and encourage them to reset, recharge, and soak in the beauty of Virginia.”
VTC will have additional Marketing Program grant and sponsorship rounds opening throughout 2024. Organizations and businesses that are interested in applying may visit vatc.org/grants for more information.
A full list of funding recipients can be found here.