The City of Bellingham is accepting applications for tourism promotion grants to promote eligible tourism and cultural activities during 2022. This grant cycle is partially supported by federal funding as well as the City’s lodging tax.
“While we can’t predict 2022 with absolute certainty, we hope to bring back our community events and we believe it will be a year to celebrate,” said Bellingham City Council member Pinky Vargas, who chairs the City’s Lodging Tax Advisory Board. “We are seeking grant proposals early this year to create greater predictability for event operators and to begin promoting 2022 offerings as soon as possible.”
Tara Sundin, the City’s Community & Economic Development Manager, said an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 will be distributed in grants through this program. Past tourism promotion grants have funded the Bellingham Bay Marathon, Wild Buffalo, Bellingham Festival of Music, Bellingham Bells, the Ski to Sea Race, and many other events and activities.
The purpose of this grant program is to promote various programs and events that bring visitors to Bellingham and Whatcom County, resulting in increased economic activity, Sundin said. Eligibility is broadly defined to encourage wide participation and innovative proposals. The grant program is primarily focused on marketing activities, but a portion of the grant can be directed to support operations as well.
Grants are awarded through a competitive process. Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. Monday, June 7, 2021. Information and applications are available on the City’s website: Tourism Promotion Grants
Federal funding helps support tourism grants
Federal funding will supplement local lodging tax revenue, allowing the City to lift the hold on tourism grant programs that has been in place since last year due to COVID-19.
Like tourism across the state and nation, area tourism has been devastated by restrictions required during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sundin said. Due to travel limits, event cancellations, venue closures and other restrictions, lodging tax revenue dropped by 40 percent in 2020.
The City uses lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors when paying for lodging, to fund investments in the tourism economy, including this grant program. As a result of loss in revenue, a grant program was not possible for 2021.
As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal government is providing the City funds to backfill revenue losses, allowing the City to proceed with tourism grant programs despite loss of local lodging tax revenue.
Questions regarding the tourism promotion grant program should be directed to Shannon Taysi, Planning & Community Development, firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 778-8360.