RICHMOND, Va. — Eleven Southwest Virginia tourism entities were among 44 statewide to share in nearly $1 million in state matching grants.

The $956,000 in grant awards were announced Wednesday by Gov. Ralph Northam. The grants are part of the Virginia Tourism Corp. marketing leverage program, according to a written statement. The funds are designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging local marketing dollars.

This funding cycle, local partners will commit more than $2.8 million to match the VTC grants, providing more than $3.8 million in new marketing funds to increase visitation to Virginia. The grants will ultimately impact at least 182 other statewide tourism entities.

“As we celebrate five decades of the iconic ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ slogan this year, I am thrilled to see such tremendous partnership, innovation, and growth within one of our most important industries,” Northam said in the statement. “Tourism entities throughout Virginia understand the value of strategic and innovative marketing initiatives in promoting what makes this Commonwealth a great place to live, work, and visit.”

Local entities and their grant awards include the Birthplace of Country Music, The Crooked Road and Heart of Appalachian Tourism Authority, which will receive $50,000 each, and the Sessions Hotel, which is to receive $12,500.

A minimum of three Virginia entities must partner financially to apply for a grant. Partners may consist of Virginia cities, towns, counties, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, other local or regional destination marketing organizations, private businesses, museums, attractions, cultural events and other tourism-related businesses.

In total, VTC awards approximately $1.7 million annually — matched by partner dollars by an average of 3-to-1.

The next round of VTC Marketing Leverage Program grants will open on Sept. 10, with a Dec. 17, 2019, deadline. Localities interested in applying may visit www.vatc.org for more information.

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