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$3.25 million grant will go toward tourism recovery initiatives in Arlington

Arlington County is set to receive more than $3 million to entice tourists to visit Arlington and help the hard-hit tourism industry recover from the pandemic.

The county’s tourism division, Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS), would use the $3.25 million grant for advertising, media outreach, marketing research, promotional events and tourism development to support the travel and hospitality industry, according to a county report.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider the grant during its meeting this Saturday. The Virginia Tourism Corporation awarded ACVS the money through the American Rescue Plan Act Tourism Recovery program, but the County Board must approve the funding.

In November, the Board cited this grant as the reason it did not consider direct financial support to hotels in its allocation of about $9 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which went toward housing assistance, expanding critical behavioral health services, meal distribution for senior citizens and more affordable child care options, among other initiatives.

Board members said the ACVS grant will instead help hospitality workers through training and job search support.

“Unfortunately, unlike the ARPA funds Arlington County received earlier from the Commonwealth, [the ACVS] funds can’t be used for grants or other direct financial support to our hotels, which is what we continue to hear would be the most impactful for their recovery and for maintaining sustainable, predictable compensation for their employees,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kate Bates told ARLnow.

In Arlington Economic Development’s survey of local hotels, employee pay and benefits was the top spending priority across hotels of all sizes, Bates said.

“Moreover, employment data show that Arlington has lost about half of its hotel workforce during the pandemic,” she said.

ACVS has gathered input on how to use the grant funding from representatives of Arlington hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, local Business Improvement Districts, the Clarendon, Columbia Pike and Langston Boulevard neighborhood partnerships, Arlington Economic Development and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the report said.

The conversations are expected to continue over the 30 months the grant will be distributed.

“The funds are designated specifically for marketing Arlington as a destination to generate visitor spending, and I’m confident that Emily Cassell and the great team at ACVS will develop a plan to successfully do that, with continued feedback from the hotels along the way,” Bates said.

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