The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, August 02, 2022, Page 10, Image 10

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Mike Phillips performed at the Jeff erson Street Jazz & Blues Festival in Nashville in July.
Federal tourism aid funds
gas stations, trash cans, jazz
the Economic Development Authority, $510
million was divided among states and terri-
tories according to a formula that took into
Located along a remote stretch of High- account job losses in their leisure and hos-
way 395, the Fort Independence Travel Plaza pitality sectors. An additional $240 million
touts a dozen gas pumps, clean restrooms was set aside for competitive grants, which
and made-to-order meals for travelers visit- are still being doled out.
ing California’s eastern Sierra.
One of those grants went to the Fort Inde-
The facility, which provides revenue for pendence Indian Reservation, a 220-mem-
a Paiute Indian tribe, is about to quadruple ber tribe that plans to add more than 60 jobs
in size thanks to an $8 million federal grant at its enlarged travel center.
that will help build a new gas station with
“Part of tourism is getting from A to B,
room for cultural displays and locally made and one of the stops along the way is our res-
ervation,” explained tribal vice chair Alisa
It’s one of hundreds of tourism-related Lee. “When we have been able to educate
projects nationwide that are collectively people about our community, our tribe and
getting about $2.4 billion from the Ameri- our culture, that is a form of tourism.”
can Rescue Plan, according to an Associated
Other competitive grants included $2.2
Press analysis of funds fl owing from last million to help replace old snowmaking
year’s wide-ranging coronavirus relief law.
equipment at Frost Fire Park ski resort in
The federal money is paying for graffi - North Dakota, $1.6 million to help build
ti-resistant trash cans in Portland, culturally a new Mardi Gras museum in Louisiana
diverse music festivals in Nashville, sports and $1.2 million to build locker rooms,
facilities in various cities and new market- concession facilities and a pavilion for a
ing campaigns to attract tourists to particu- cross-country course at Middle Georgia
lar states — sometimes in direct competition State University.
with one another.
Christopher Blake, the university’s presi-
“Our goal is to get people traveling dent, said in a statement that the project has
again. Period,” said Dave
the potential “to trans-
Lorenz, the chairman of
form it into a recreational
the National Council of
dynamo” that generates
State Tourism Directors
nearly $1 million a year in
and the Michigan travel
economic activity.
Several states also
Despite high fuel
projected big returns on
prices, Americans do
their federal tourism dol-
seem to be hitting the
lars, according to grant
road. After a plunge at
plans obtained by the AP
the onset of the COVID-
through an open-records
19 outbreak, U.S. travel
spending this year is pro-
Alabama plans to
jected to top $1 trillion —
nearly $2.7 mil-
up 45% from its 2020 low
lion to build three boat
point, according to the
piers at reservoirs along
U.S. Travel Association.
the Coosa River. The
That corresponds with
state said regional fi sh-
a similar increase in state
ing tournaments can lure
tourism offi ce budgets,
$200,000 into an econ-
which have rebounded
omy and national tourna-
to pre-pandemic levels
ments up to $1 million.
thanks to the federal aid.
Oregon used a $9.1
A coronavirus relief
million grant to help pro-
law signed by former
duce promotional videos
President Donald Trump
and pictures of scenery
opened the potential for
that could be embedded
federal money to be used
into TV broadcasts of the
for local tourism projects.
World Athletics Champi-
The subsequent pan-
onships that occurred in
demic relief law signed
Eugene in July. The inter-
by President Joe Biden
national broadcasts could
expanded that. The Amer-
yield between $224 mil-
TO ADDRESSING lion and $374 million
ican Rescue Plan con-
tained $750 million for
in visitor spending and
grants for tourism, travel
“spur economic devel-
and outdoor recreation
opment and opportunity
through the federal Eco-
for decades to come,” the
IMPACTS OF THE Oregon Tourism Com-
Authority. It also included
mission said in a grant
the tourism, travel and
plan submitted to federal
hospitality sector among
offi cials.
dozens of eligible uses — alongside health
Tourism projects generally seem like
care, housing and unemployment pro- an appropriate use of the federal pandemic
grams — for a $350 billion pool of fl exible relief funds because the industry initially
aid sent to state, local, territorial and tribal was one of the hardest hit, said Sean Moul-
ton, a senior policy analyst at the nonprofi t
Those governments had budgeted more Project on Government Oversight.
than $1.6 billion from those fl exible funds
But “as you give more fl exibility,” Moul-
for about 550 tourism, travel and hospitality ton said, “you run the risk of the money
projects as of the end of March, according being used in ways that in retrospect you say
to an Associated Press analysis of recently that wasn’t the most eff ective.”
released data from the U.S. Treasury.
The city of Fort Worth, Texas, has
Those tourism projects include $425,000 directed $52 million of its fl exible Ameri-
in Portland to replace 200 trash cans with can Rescue Plan money for an expansion of
ones that have larger openings and hard- its convention center. Of that, $40 million
er-to-deface surfaces made of such things was categorized as tourism aid in a 2021
as metal slats or wire mesh. The city cited year-end report submitted to the Treasury
″a substantial increase in the amount of Department.
trash, graffi ti and vandalism” during the
The Treasury revised its rules in January
pandemic, asserting that new garbage cans to discourage big spending on convention
will “create a safer, more welcoming envi- centers and stadiums, stating that large cap-
ronment for visitors to our parks,” accord- ital expenditures to aid the travel and tour-
ing to a description in the Treasury Depart- ism industries are “not reasonably propor-
ment data.
tional to addressing the negative economic
Nashville, known for its country music impacts of the pandemic.”
scene, allotted $750,000 to reach “culturally
Fort Worth is moving ahead with the
diverse visitors.” That’s helping fund ren- project anyway. The city reclassifi ed the aid
ovations at a once-prominent Black music as a replacement for revenue lost during the
venue, subsidize choir concerts at Fisk Uni- pandemic — a category with the broadest
versity and pay for an annual jazz and blues fl exibility under Treasury rules.
festival, among other things.
California got the largest tourism grant
The goal is to “build up the other genres allocation, about $46 million. The state
without pushing country music down,” said directed all of that — plus an additional $95
Butch Spyridon, the CEO of the Nashville million of fl exible federal pandemic aid —
Convention & Visitors Corp.
to its nonprofi t tourism entity, which con-
Of the tourism grants awarded through ducts national and international marketing.
Associated Press
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