BOSTON (State House News Service) — With more and more people becoming vaccinated against COVID-19 and the summer travel season looking like a more realistic possibility, the Baker administration awarded $1.6 million in local tourism grants Tuesday and rolled out a new $2 million grant program that will look for "shovel-ready" projects to enhance tourist destinations across the state.
"We want to make sure that what we have to offer continues to be there and we want to support it and grow it and nurture it," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said during an online announcement event.
The $1.6 million in Travel and Tourism Recovery awards went to 59 businesses and tourism associations around Massachusetts, including places like the Boston Museum of Science.
Housing and Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy also said the administration was launching the $2 million Destination Development Capital Program, which was part of the economic development borrowing bill that passed the Legislature in early January.
Both Kennealy and Polito said the new program would supplement the "My Local MA" program created last summer to encourage Massachusetts residents to support local businesses that were trying to rebuild after being shut down early in the pandemic.
"This is a way to compliment the marketing dollars we spend every year with capital dollars to help develop our tourism assets around the state," Kennealy said. "We are going to look for shovel-ready projects. We're going to look for projects that will enhance tourism recovery, that will support the My Local campaign and will have the potential long-term to increase visitation from folks outside of Massachusetts."
Tourism industry leaders have been calling for the state to dedicate additional resources to marketing and promotion to help Massachusetts businesses and destination communities compete for regional tourists as people start to venture away from home.
Kennealy said the state spends about $10 million on tourism marketing each year and "will continue to do that" in addition to these new grant programs. The House Ways and Means budget that will be debated next week included a $5 million boost in funding for "local tourism recovery marketing," according to House leaders.
By Matt Murphy, State House News Service