Fall travel season is underway. As tourism sites around the commonwealth showcase their best assets, this time of year reminds us of how much our state has to offer — and the resources that help our communities reach their fullest potential.

The Virginia Tourism Corp. (VTC) and its Marketing Leverage Program (MLP) is one avenue. In late August, nearly $1 million in grants were dispersed among 44 local tourism initiatives to help draw visitors to leisure opportunities across the commonwealth.

“By leveraging the power of public-private partnerships, the Marketing Leverage Program grants will help inject even more critical dollars back into Virginia’s economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball in a statement.

Each year, there are two funding cycles for MLP grants — and at least three local partners must match VTC money. Tier 1 awards are up to $10,000, with a 1:1 match. Tier 2 awards are up to $50,000, with a 2:1 match. Local partners will add more than $2.8 million in matches this cycle.

In central Virginia, recipients included the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce, which received $10,000 for its “Love Louisa” marketing campaign. The Downtown Ashland Association also gained $10,000 for a tourism promotion.

The promise of these grants can be felt in VTC’s recent fall season trip profile. Its snapshot of 2017 Virginia visitors found an average travel party spent $495 over 2.5 nights per trip. Half of people said their primary purpose was visiting friends or relatives and nearly 30% of fall visitors were in-state.

Virginians know what our state has to offer. Grants from VTC’s Marketing Leverage Program give our local wonders the support they deserve. As the leaves change colors, we encourage readers to peruse the list of 44 grant recipients and travel and spend locally.

For areas yet to benefit from this opportunity, the next round of grants is open. A draft review of applications is due Nov. 21, with a final deadline of Dec. 17. Interested groups can visit vatc.org/grants/leverageprogram/.

Chris Gentilviso

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