CARES Act grant to impact local tourism

Ricky Cherry, Hampton Inn-Cookeville, wearing a #ckvlcares mask, part of the #maskyourmuzzle campaign.

Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau eligible for more than $100K in recovery marketing

COOKEVILLE – The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau announced today their eligibility for more than $100,000 in recovery marketing grant dollars. The announcement follows recent news from the office of Gov. Bill Lee reporting $25 million in CARES Act funding would soon be allocated to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to remarket the severely devastated travel/hospitality industry to aid in the state’s economic recovery. 

Due to the value placed on the industry as a key driver, TDTD Commissioner Mark Ezell was appointed by Lee to serve as the director of the Economic Recovery Group. Ezell showed great appreciation to Lee and the state’s financial accountability group in allocating the funding and announced $15 million would be directly awarded in grants to all 95 counties’ designated Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs). Additional funding will be allocated to support Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, both key partners to the travel industry. 

The dollar amount of this reimbursing grant for each county is based on the most recent reports of tourism expenditures generated by that destination (2018-2019). Putnam County, a top 20 destination in Tennessee, has shown consecutive growth in visitor spending. The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau was notified of eligibility of $106,317 to be used to promote safety and inspire responsible travel. 

Parameters for eligible projects are continuing to be set, with possible projects to include marketing safe travels ideas to potential visitors; showcasing activities and attractions taking the Tennessee Pledge; promotion of outdoor activities; campaigns with messaging around masks, social distancing and sanitization; and other COVID-19 response safety messaging. 

This news for Putnam County is on the heels of the announcement of the economic impact of tourism for 2019, released last week by Lee, TDTD and U.S. Travel Association. Putnam County increased in all five measurements: visitor spending, payroll, state and local taxes and job growth. 

“We are incredibly grateful to Gov. Lee, Comm. Ezell and his team for seeing the value and impact of our industry on a local level and how it affects the well-being of Tennessee’s economy,” said Molly Brown, executive director of the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau. “Tourism is the second largest industry in Tennessee, and the sooner we can rebound the hospitality industry, the sooner the overall economy will recover.”

The visitors’ bureau is currently participating in weekly webinars with TDTD and HORNE to learn the eligibility options and process for the grant and will then create and implement a strategic plan for recovery marketing to be complete by Dec. 30, 2020. The visitors’ bureau is ahead of many destinations, as a first phase of recovery marketing was initiated in May during National Travel & Tourism Week. Investment in those campaigns will be eligible for immediate reimbursement. 

For more information on the CARES Act tourism recovery marketing program, click here

For more information on 2019 Economic Impact reports, click here.

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