State Grants Boost Post-COVID Tourism

By Ron Chimelis, rchimelis@repub.com
 
Nancy Connor says the state Travel and Tourism Recovery Grant program is a blessing that comes at just the right time.
 
“Marketing dollars are so important. We need to reach out and let people know we’re here, and welcome them to be part of our communities,” explains Connor, the executive director of the East of the River-Five Town Chamber of Commerce.
 
Her chamber, headquartered in East Longmeadow, this week received a $23,457 grant as part of the nearly $300,000 distributed by the state Office of Travel and Tourism to Western Massachusetts agencies and organizations in a program to bolster the tourism industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The program spread 59 grants worth $1.6 million throughout the state on Tuesday. The Springfield Museums, Spirit of Springfield, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and Old Sturbridge Village are among those on the list. Of the Western Massachusetts recipients, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce will receive the largest grant of $116,655.
 
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said during a live stream announcement that, as difficult as the pandemic has been, the inability to enjoy the state’s special character through tourism has created a new appreciation for what has always been there.
 
“We don’t take anything we have in the commonwealth for granted. We cherish it, we love it and we want to nurture it,” Polito said. “People are feeling healthier and more comfortable in getting out. The (coronavirus) vaccine is out in full force. We (want to) have our state covered from one end to the other.”
 
The Amherst grant is earmarked for “a comprehensive marketing campaign including brand development, content creation, website development and optimization, digital advertising, photography, and video production,” according to the travel and tourism office.
 
The Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau will receive $47,500 for its partnership with the Springfield Regional Chamber and its Minority Business Council on the “Hidden Gems of the Gateway Cities” effort. The program highlights women and minority-owned businesses in Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, and Westfield.
 
The Williamstown Chamber of Commerce was granted $25,735 for its “Escape to Williamstown” a multifaceted marketing campaign to include an enhanced visitors guide, advertising, social media, and banners.

 
The Springfield Museums and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown will each receive $24,500. The Springfield Museums will market “Seuss in Springfield” with a statewide campaign to leverage the Dr. Seuss brand and cultural assets of the city of Springfield through video creation and digital advertising.

 

 
Children ride the seven-hump Wump at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in 2019. The Springfield Museums Tuesday received a $24,500 state grant to promote the Seuss brand.
 
The Clark Art Institute will promote “Go West,” a campaign to drive stronger attendance from eastern Massachusetts through additional billboard promotions and a concentrated social media campaign with targeted marketing.
 
The East of the River-Five Town Chamber of Commerce, which represents East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, and Wilbraham, was allocated $23,457. Connor says the funds are earmarked for digital and print advertising, website development, and video. She says that during tough economic times, marketing budgets are usually among the first to be cut, which can become a self-defeating tactic because marketing is not a disposable commodity of the tourism industry, but its lifeblood.
 
“News of this award couldn’t come at a better time,” said executive director Nancy Connor. “It looks like our doors are opening and our customers are coming back. It gives us marketing funds that we can develop and invest.”
 
A significant part of the ERC5 media budget will be committed to reaching out to minorities, people of color, and those with disabilities. Connor notes that 123,000 Latino individuals reside in Hampden County, and the Black community will also be an important part of the campaign.
 
James Donahue, chairman, and CEO of Old Sturbridge Village says the history museum lost 150,000 visitors last year. He greeted visitors during the live stream with Polito and said the village is coming back.
 
State support will allow Old Sturbridge Village to employ “21st-century marketing techniques, even though we interpret an 18th-century village,” Donahue said.

The Town of Ware will receive $12,143 for branding banners and a media marketing project that includes the production of a promotional video, television, radio, digital advertising, and social media ads.
 
Spirit of Springfield was granted $11,861 for multichannel marketing of the popular Christmas season Bright Nights at Forest Park. The plan includes online marketing, an email campaign, and a marketing advertising package with the American Bus Association.

“News of this award couldn’t come at a better time. It looks like our doors are opening and our customers are coming back. It gives us marketing funds that we can develop and invest.”

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