OEDIT creates two new grant programs aimed at pandemic recovery using federal tourism and outdoor recreation funding

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced today two new grant programs designed to accelerate pandemic recovery in Colorado tourism destinations and the state’s outdoor recreation industry. 

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) has introduced the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant, a $4 million competitive grant program that will distribute funds to outdoor recreation projects over the next four years. Eligible projects include upgrades to infrastructure, technical and planning assistance, marketing and promotion of events and assets, and workforce development, all within the outdoor recreation industry. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis with quarterly review deadlines; the first deadline is June 30, 2022.

The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) Tourism Recovery Marketing Grant will distribute $1.85 million in matching grants to tourist destinations still in pandemic recovery. Eligible projects are city, county, or regional tourism marketing and promotional campaigns overseen by nonprofit organizations promoting tourist destinations, Colorado cities or other political subdivisions of the State, economic development district organizations and Indian tribes. The application period is open from June 1 through August 1.

Both grant programs are made possible through funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) State Tourism Grant, which will also enable increased marketing to international tourists. Colorado received a total of $9.68 million in EDA State Tourism Grant funding after it was made available to states to accelerate pandemic recovery in communities that rely on travel, tourism and outdoor recreation. OEDIT allocated half of the funds to the CTO and half to OREC to address declines in international tourism and direct much-needed funds to tourism destinations and outdoor industry organizations and groups still recovering from the pandemic. Directing funds to Colorado communities was a priority in allocating the funds. 

“Coloradans are resilient. Across the state, communities have been developing and implementing pandemic recovery plans to come back stronger than before. We felt it was important to direct a majority of the federal State Tourism Grant funding to the communities where this important work is happening and support their efforts. OREC and CTO are well positioned to reach those communities and help them access these important funds,” said OEDIT Executive Director Pat Meyers. 

In addition to overseeing the Tourism Recovery Marketing Grant, the CTO will allocate $2.4 million of the funds toward international marketing and promotions over the next four years, replacing funding lost over the pandemic. International tourism spend in our state dropped 81% from $1.8B in 2019 to $306M in 2020 with 2021 forecasted to finish even lower. International travelers are Colorado’s highest value tourist, staying longer and visiting more areas of the state, with a heavy emphasis on sustainable tourism.

“This federal funding allows the Colorado Tourism Office to focus on two areas important to pandemic recovery in tourism destinations: providing the Tourism Marketing Recovery Grant directly to the communities still recovering and attracting high-value international tourists back to Colorado. Both are important strategies to help Colorado come back stronger,” said Tim Wolfe, CTO Director. 

According to OREC director Conor Hall, many parts of the outdoor recreation industry are also still in recovery. 

“The pandemic has had a varied effect on the outdoor recreation industry. Some communities have seen such an influx of outdoor recreation tourists that they are scrambling to keep up with and mitigate the impacts. In other areas, communities are still trying to come back from the hit they took. Given the outdoor recreation industry’s vital importance to Colorado’s economy and identity, we’re excited that the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant will put funding directly into the hands of the organizations and places that need the support the most,” Hall said. 

Both the Tourism Recovery Marketing Grant and the State Outdoor Recreation Grant are now accepting applications.