The CARES Act provides the Economic Development Administration (EDA) with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. The EDA released a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) on May 7, along with a host of other resources, allowing eligible entities to begin applying for funding. The grant is an 80/20 match with a minimum grant amount of $100,000 and maximum of $30 million.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
Eligible entities include “public entities or private nonprofit corporations acting in cooperation with local government officials.” This means DMOs that fall under a 501 C (6) status are eligible to apply for these grants provided they have a letter from the City or County that they are “acting in cooperation” with the local government.
WHAT DOES IT COVER?
Applications must clearly explain how the project responds to the economic injury of the coronavirus and contributes to the economic recovery and resiliency of the community. The EDA specifically includes travel and tourism-related strategies among the eligible uses for these grants; however, you must describe how your proposed scope of work will help mitigate the damage from COVID-19 or improve the economic situation.
HOW ARE THE GRANTS SELECTED?
Eligible grantees submit grant applications to one of the six regional EDA offices, which will then determine which grant applications to fund. Eligible projects and activities must be consistent with a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) or equivalent EDA-accepted regional economic development strategy. Because of this, it is important to contact your regional office to obtain a copy of your region’s CEDS and discuss possible opportunities for your organization.
MMGY Global has partnered with Civitas Advisors to help destination organizations navigate the complex application process. For more information, please contact Paul Ouimet email@example.com or Jim McCaul firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key next steps include:
- Contacting your local EDA representative to find out what applications they are willing to accept and what activities they are willing to fund.
- Identifying any CEDS already in place in your area.
- Exploring potential collaborations with other regional partners.
- If you are a nonprofit corporation, talking to your city or county about obtaining a letter stating that you are acting in cooperation with the local government.
- Developing a draft scope of work to propose to your local EDA representative.
- Beginning the registration and application process.
Based on our research and personal consultations with EDA officials, MMGY Global has created a list of potential projects likely to be eligible for grant funding in most regions:
STRATEGIC RECOVERY PLAN
A strategic recovery plan to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your community’s critical visitor economy and accelerate recovery. A strategic recovery plan will help your destination:
- Assess COVID-19 impacts and outlooks on local tourism economics
- Help restore confidence and provide assurance to residents and visitors
- Rally stakeholders to participate in and support recovery efforts
- Rebuild industry capabilities
- Identify opportunities amid the current situation
- Differentiate destinations from competitors
DESTINATION EXPERIENCE PLAN
The visitor economy has become an inherent and integral part of cities and communities. But the makeup of visitor economies has been dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A destination experience plan helps communities understand the status of hospitality and tourism enterprises, identify which assets are primary demand generators, and create a strategy to reopen visitor economies in a safe and healthy manner.
ECONOMIC SCENARIO MODEL
Understanding potential recovery scenarios – when travelers will return, who might visit and what the experience could be – is key to establishing an effective tourism recovery strategy. Scenario modeling identifies key drivers and assumptions, maps a range of recovery paths, and suggests a series of strategies to accelerate recovery.
AIR SERVICE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
Air service is profoundly important not only to visitor economies but also to broader economies at large. However, air service has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as airlines have been forced to significantly decrease the number of routes they service. An air service development strategy will help destinations identify the right target airlines to serve strategic markets, develop a marketing strategy to reflect the evolving airline industry environment, and build consensus amongst multiple stakeholders on an air service approach.
RESIDENT SENTIMENT SURVEY
Resident sentiment surveys are designed to assess residents’ opinions on the impact tourism has on a destination. The core survey provides insights into areas such as the extent to which COVID-19 has impacted perception of tourism and the extent to which the tourism industry is seen as important to COVID-19 recovery. In addition, it also provides residents’ perceptions of tourism’s impact on destination infrastructure, city land use decisions and more.
RECOVERY MARKET ANALYSIS & STRATEGY
Many markets have pivoted for the short- to mid-term due to COVID-19. A recovery market strategy identifies the correct market mix determined by a number of factors, including:
- Market size and access
- Relative advertisement costs in origin markets
- Travel Sentiment Index of potential origin markets
- Online travel research behavior and engagement indices
- Consumer planning and buying behaviors
- Current conversion activity by market
CUSTOM RECOVERY AUDIENCE SEGMENTATION & PERSONA DEVELOPMENT
A focus on new or refined recovery-specific audiences will allow destinations to continue to support tourism in their communities in the short-term but also allow for the chance to expose a destination to potential new audiences. Custom audience segmentation uses enhanced custom travel audiences and layers on geolocation data to identify travelers that were still traveling prior to travel bans. On top of this geolocation data, we use MMGY Travel Intelligence data to refine these addressable audiences further. For example, we focus on travelers with a history of high-frequency travel and high discretionary spend on travel, as well as interest in road trips, beaches or mountain towns. And lastly, we personify the audiences, leveraging MRI and social listening, to tap into the emotive attributes of the future traveler. Custom recovery audiences can be used for many strategies, but we recommend using them for three critical purposes:
- To create immediate recovery audiences and introduce your destination to resilient travelers based on known travel indicators
- To strengthen recovery by creating a data refinement layer, looking at both your existing audiences and modeling new audiences based on the changing travel landscape
- As an opportunity to define and uncover new audiences who do not currently consider your destination top of mind
RECOVERY COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
Recovery communications strategies identify the key messages and traveler takeaways needed throughout the full-funnel of planning to be conveyed in tactical execution. We build our messaging strategy with the consumer in mind – understanding where our audience is within the media funnel to define roles for media, and creative messaging so all pieces work harder together.
Our recovery communications strategy is inclusive of the following content:
- Story Pillars: Content pillars aligning brand products with traveler motivators
- Communications Road Map: Visualization articulating full-funnel integration across messaging and purpose of messaging, audiences, POE channels, and measures of success
- Digital Ecosystem: Visualization featuring customer journey for each funnel phase based on destination strategy