by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times
August 10, 2021
SPRINGFIELD, IL — Governor J. B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced a new $10 million grant program aimed at revitalizing the state’s struggling tourism industry by reintroducing new and returning tourism attractions and festivals.
The Tourism Attractions and Festivals Grant program is made possible by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and is part of a larger effort underway by the Pritzker administration to help revitalize tourism in Illinois and put the industry on a path to economic recovery following COVID-19.
Tourism and festival businesses and entities can apply for grants of up to $1 million through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) issued today. These grants can be used to establish and improve tourism attractions or festivals planned for this year or next. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are depleted, with quarterly awards made, and the department will be able to fund applications that are most closely aligned to eligibility criteria approved for immediate funding.
The Tourism Attraction and Festivals Grant program will assist in the development of new or improved tourism attractions throughout the state, including but not limited to museums, businesses, events, performances, and festivals. To maximize the program’s impact, DCEO will use ARPA federal recovery funds to provide grants ranging from $10,000 to $1 million, with a local match required. The program’s goal is to attract more visitors and overnight stays, which will increase foot traffic in communities across Illinois.
Local government units, municipalities, counties, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and local promotion groups are all eligible applicants. The funds may be used for capital projects, equipment, training, transportation, housing, receptions, entertainment, photography, temporary housing, and interpretive programs, such as exhibits and installations, in order to develop new attractions and events that will attract visitors to Illinois
Proposed attractions and festivals must demonstrate how this award will benefit local businesses and will be evaluated based on marketing value and ability to attract overnight visitors. Projects will be given a higher score if they are close to commercial corridors and services, such as hotels, restaurants, retail, and other commercial operations.
This additional tourism industry support comes on the heels of the launch of a new campaign earlier this year to reinvigorate the industry and assist convention and visitor bureau (CVB) partners in attracting visitors back to all areas across the state. “Time for Me to Drive,” is the first new tourism campaign since COVID-19 went into effect last year, and it capitalizes on pent-up travel demand – specifically road trips – to encourage residents and visitors to enjoy Illinois’ diverse communities and scenic landscapes in a safe manner.
The campaign includes over 60 distinct itineraries; for more information, visit the State’s official tourism website, enjoyillinois.com.