The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded a $10.6 million tourism and hospitality grant to the McKee Administration. The $10.6 million grant will be used to support projects, businesses, and jobs in the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors. The tourism grant is part of the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Agenda and is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We are so glad to share the good news that Rhode Island will be getting more than $10 million to help our tourism and hospitality industries, and all of our small businesses in those areas,” said Governor Dan McKee. “This sector has been severely impacted by the pandemic, and these funds will go a long way in ensuring this sector not only bounces back but is even stronger going forward. Visitors from around the world love visiting our state, and it’s part of who we are. This investment will help ensure the Ocean State continues to be a viable and attractive destination for years to come. We thank Secretary Raimondo and the Biden Administration for these resources and for recognizing the importance of this funding to our state.”
“Tourism is a foundational part of Rhode Island’s economy,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. “This industry not only supports thousands of jobs, it also attracts more than $7 billion in spending annually. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many elements of this important industry, but this grant will help the state recover and become even more resilient as we continue to emerge post-pandemic.”
Elements of the state’s grant proposal included:
– Increased paid advertising in partnership with our tourism regions and airport to support marketing campaigns to attract new, overnight visitors. – Technology upgrades and improvements to the Visit Rhode Island website and websites of the state’s tourism regions. – Development of new attractions and destination events, particularly to boost year-round visitation. – A strategic analysis to focus on improving accessibility throughout state and its attractions.
The tourism industry comprises approximately 13.7 percent of the state’s total private sector employment in Rhode Island. In 2019, the state hosted 26.2 million visitors and the total traveler economy surpassed $7 billion. Tourism in Rhode Island generated $843 million in state and local taxes in 2019. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leisure and hospitality industry jobs in the state fell 61.5 percent between February and April of 2020, making it one of the hardest-hit sectors of the state economy.
Previous efforts to assist small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have included distribution of more than $140 million in federal funds to assist more than 8,500 small businesses. This included multiple rounds of direct relief (Restore Rhode Island grant program, early closure for restaurants and bars, Rhode Island on Pause grants, and Rhode Island Relief grants), as well as more targeted rounds of assistance such as the Business Adaptation program which provided $3.6 million to help state businesses pivot in the face of COVID, the Take It Outside program which provided $7.4 million in awards to help 111 different businesses increase their outdoor activity to reduce spread of COVID-19, $4 million to help businesses pivot to remote work, and $2.5 million in technical assistance grants.
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