Staff Report —
Three Eastern Shore groups — the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce, the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, and Onancock Main Street — were among 64 local tourism initiatives to receive more than $860,000 in matching grants to expedite recovery and economic growth.
The Virginia Tourism Commission revised its traditional marketing leverage program to create the recovery program in an effort to support tourism initiatives as they respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism and hospitality industries in Virginia. As Virginia slowly reopens for business, VTC offered these grant funds as a first step to re-entry into the marketplace to spur economic activity and future travel across Virginia.
“The tourism and hospitality industries have been among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, experiencing decreased revenue and job loss, along with the temporary closure of many tourism-related businesses,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “These funds will help to revive Virginia’s tourism economy, which will help spur new economic activity and inject critical funds back into its communities.”
The grant application was open to all Virginia tourism industry partners. The awarded funds will help local and regional tourism programs leverage limited marketing budgets through in-kind matches of state grants, totaling more than $2.2 million. The program will impact more than 380 tourism entities across Virginia.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission received $20,000, which it will use to share the Shore with potential visitors. The commission will share the incredible beauty of Virginia’s natural coast and the stories of the Shore to help interested tourists plan their trips and encourage tourism in the entirety of the Shore.
“The ESVA Tourism Commission is very grateful to have received this grant, and looks forward to seeing the lasting impact it will have on local tourism to the Eastern Shore,” said Robert Sabbatini, executive director of the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission.
The Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce received $10,000.
The Chincoteague chamber will use the funds to enhance the 2022 Visitor Guide & Membership Directory, which will include state-of-the-art digital technologies to complement the print guide.
A digital GoGuide will offer search capabilities, while the interactive iMap will enable visitors to learn more about the area and locate individual chamber members more effectively.
Evelyn Shotwell, executive director of the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce, said that while “the tourism industry on Chincoteague Island fared better than most communities in the Commonwealth during the pandemic, it definitely has not been an easy road. Our business community has persevered through major obstacles in recent months to remain viable in a challenging economy. The enhanced digital features of the chamber’s marketing materials will significantly impact the visitor experience in a positive way, thus impacting the bottom line of every chamber member.”
Onancock Main Street received $10,000, which will be used to expand the Experience Onancock website.