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Smithfield, Surry get tourism grants

The Smithfield and Isle of Wight Convention and Visitors Bureau and Surry County Tourism are among 90 similar organizations statewide to receive grants through the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s WanderLove Recovery Grant Program.

Smithfield and Surry each received $10,000. More than $866,000 in funding was shared statewide.

The grant program’s goal is to mitigate the negative effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on the tourism and hospitality industries, which have been hit especially hard, resulting in the temporary closure of tourism-related businesses, decreased revenue and job losses.

In Smithfield, the tourism bureau will use the grant for new photography, a video and podcast series, a month of super-targeted digital ads in Coastal Virginia, an ad in Richmond Magazine, a new promotional program for local merchants called the “WanderLove Stroll along Hayden’s Lane,” and targeted social media ads promoting the area.

“Smithfield and Isle of Wight Tourism is delighted to receive the WanderLOVE grant from VTC, especially in these challenging times for hospitality and tourism,” said Tourism Director Judy Winslow. “We are looking forward to safely welcoming back regional road-trippers and re-energizing our contributions to the economic health and recovery of our community.”

Surry will use the grant to expand its marketing efforts to promote outdoor recreation and small town tourism experiences, according to Pat Bernshausen, the county’s tourism coordinator.

“During this time of economic hardship, it is a wonderful opportunity to have additional funds to invest in tourism marketing,” she said. “We are excited about our community and what Surry has to offer to potential travelers. The WanderLove Campaign will enable us to bring attention to some of our local businesses and increase local revenues in ways we had not anticipated.”

In 2018, Virginia tourism was a $26 billion industry that supported 236,000 work opportunities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. Although the grant program did not require a cash match, localities have pledged a collective in-kind match of more than $3 million, according to the governor’s office.

Visitors to Smithfield and Isle of Wight County spent about $43.24 million in 2018. Tourism supported 406 work opportunities and contributed about $11.63 million to local and state tax revenue. In Surry County, visitors spent more than $10.65 million in the same time frame, and the industry supported 100 work opportunities and generated $307,424 in local tax revenue.

“The WanderLove Recovery Grant was designed to stimulate economic activity this summer and beyond for travelers as they cautiously resume travel,” Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said in a statement. “Virginia destinations have worked incredibly hard to ensure the health and safety of its citizens and visitors. The WanderLove campaign is a great way to showcase a fun, relaxing Virginia vacation while also staying safe.”