Wisconsin TRAVEL Grant
Tourism Relief to Accelerate Vitality and Economic Lift (TRAVEL) Stimulus Grants have been awarded to 158 organizations totaling $11,894,966.26. The full list of recipients of is available here.
The goal of the Wisconsin TRAVEL grant program is to aid the recovery for local entities that promote tourism, which is one of Wisconsin’s largest industries and was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. This grant is being offered in alignment with the Department of Tourism’s strategic imperative of driving economic impact by aiding in the state’s economic recovery.
The program is designed to provide grant funding to tourism promotion and tourism development organizations for the purposes of resuming business operations and helping restore economic activity amid the current COVID-19 public health emergency.
PANDEMIC RELIEF FOR WISCONSIN'S TOURISM ECONOMY
In 2019, Wisconsin travel spending drove $22.2 billion in total business sales (~7.3% of GDP), $13.3 billion in direct visitor spending and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes. Wisconsin’s 113.2 million visitor trips sustained over 202,000 jobs - 1 in every 18 Wisconsin jobs - and translates to a $687 tax savings for each Wisconsin household to maintain current levels of government services. The return on investment for the Department of Tourism's state branding and promotion drives $8 in tax revenue and $95 in visitor spending for every $1 in promotional spend. While this data underscores that tourism is one of Wisconsin's most financially valuable industries, the impact of tourism activities upon Wisconsin's economy stretches well beyond the tourism industry. The halo effect of tourism's advertising and attraction of travelers is a significant asset in recruiting entrepreneurs, workers, students, retirees and investors.
This relief funding comes at a time when large events and hotel tax collections that fund Wisconsin’s tourism promotion will be slow to return. This reduction in traditional travel is causing challenges for staffing and talent retention, placing Wisconsin’s tourism promotion infrastructure in danger, even risking outright collapse in the smallest of rural communities. As tourism consumer confidence slowly rebounds, these critical funds will play a major role in helping ensure Wisconsin’s tourism industry will bounce back faster than the national average.
HOW WISCONSIN TRAVEL GRANTS WORK
Funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Wisconsin TRAVEL stimulus grant program will allocate up to $12 million dollars to be distributed to Wisconsin’s tourism promotion and tourism development organizations to provide much-needed relief and support to the tourism industry. Full details about the Wisconsin TRAVEL Stimulus Grant are in the Grant Announcement:
- Continuation of Operations: Funding to enable struggling tourism promotion and tourism development organizations to remain operational, including but not limited to payroll, utilities, rent, PPE, COVID-19 related cleaning supplies, and the installation and purchase of safety equipment/barriers in public-facing facilities.
- Marketing Local/Regional Business Activities: Promotion and support of the resumption of local/regional business activities and the steps taken to ensure a safe and healthy experience for travelers and resident consumers. However, tourism promotion and tourism development organizations will not be able to use the money for long-term positioning or more traditional marketing campaigns unrelated to the pandemic.
Tourism promotion and tourism development organizations that are government entities can only apply for Marketing Local/Regional Business Activities.
To be eligible, organizations must:
- Be a tourism focused Wisconsin government or private organization not organized or incorporated for profit. This includes, but is not limited to those classified as 501c3, 501c4, or 501c6.
- Provide tourism promotion and tourism development services for geographic based (community/county/regional/statewide) traveler destinations.
- If a nonprofit, be registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and have one of the following statuses as of the grant announcement closing date: “restored to good standing”, “incorporated/qualified/registered”, “organized”, or “registered.”
- Conduct operations in Wisconsin and have an administrative presence in Wisconsin.
- Operate for the benefit of the public.
- Be in continuous operation since March 1, 2019.
- For-profit organizations
- Non-tourism related organizations
- Non-profit independent arts organizations
- Solely event-based organizations
- All political organizations subject to tax under IRC section 527 such as political parties; campaign committees for candidates for federal, state, or local office; and political action committees.
- Organizations which are not explicitly eligible as defined above as determined by the Department.
The application period is now closed. Awards have been announced here.
All grant recipients must expend all funds by December 30, 2020 as directed by the CARES Act and all recipients may be subject to audit of received funds.