The Seaside Visitors Bureau and Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce received a boost last week with $10,000 grants awarded to both organizations.
They are two of 121 organizations throughout the state to receive a portion of more than $800,000 delivered by Travel Oregon through a newly created COVID-19 emergency response grant program.
“On May 11, just days after completing administration of the city’s own comprehensive relief program, the City of Seaside Visitors Bureau submitted an application for Travel Oregon’s new COVID-19 Emergency Response Grant Program,” the city’s director of tourism marketing Joshua Heineman said. “Yesterday we received word of a $10,000 award through the program.”
The grants will help the welcome center operate at full capacity this summer and fall.
Distinct from previous Oregon Tourism Commission’s Travel Oregon grant awards, he said, the award covers operating expenses, including wages for visitor center staff, but is not for marketing or development.
The funds must be spent by the end of the year to support the city’s 2020-2021 fiscal budget starting in July.
Jim Paino, executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the grant will be used for “business continuity expenses,” which translates to staff payroll.
“We did have to lay off four of our staff members at the beginning of the pandemic,” Paino said. “We will continue to run short-staffed through the summer and next fiscal year. We are looking into the possibility of interns through the Clatsop Works program to help during the summer.”
The chamber is looking at the possibility of interns through the Clatsop Works program to help during the summer.
In total, 332 applications were submitted in 30 counties in Oregon.
Seaside Oceanfront Inn received a grant of $10,000 and the Seashore Inn $5,000.
Eligible applicants included destination marketing organizations, lodging properties, tour operators, guides and outfitters.
According to Travel Oregon, more than 90% of the funds are awarded to businesses in Oregon communities with fewer than 35,000 residents and more than 70% of the funds are dedicated to cover some portion of payroll expenses.
Sara Morrissey, Travel Oregon’s public affairs manager, said the tourism economy has been impacted dramatically, especially on the North Coast.
“As always, we wish there were more resources to provide at this time, and we are evaluating how to continue to support our communicates and local businesses in recovery efforts,” she said. “We are working to help balance ways to support recovery efforts there and across the state with the protecting public health, which has to remain a priority.”
The agency has suspended campaign marketing and realigning to focus on helping Oregon communities. “First because we don’t want to take a step forward to then see a spike of cases to then be forced to take two steps back into shutdown,” Morrissey said. “One of these first efforts was the COVID-19 relief grants that we just awarded.”
It is important that cities and state agencies work together toward reopening safely to avoid another round of massive closures, she added. “We don’t want to go through another round of massive closures. We want to support local tourism businesses so they can stay open and provide jobs to Oregonians. As counties begin to enter phase 2, we will continue to work closely with the governor’s office as well as local communities and tourism businesses to intentionally and strategically rebuild the tourism industry, one community at a time.”