Westmoreland Boosts Tourism With Nearly $ 550,000 In Grants To 44 Institutions And Groups

Westmoreland County’s tourism industry will get a boost of nearly $ 550,000 next year through grants to 44 entities that entice tourists to come to the county.

They include organizations, festivals, museums, theaters, historical societies, hotels and restaurants.

Officials say the tourism industry is the county’s second most important economic engine.

The money comes from a 5% hotel tax.

Those involved in the industry “have placed Westmoreland County on the national scene as a destination for virtually all types of recreation and entertainment,” Westmoreland County Commissioner Doug Chew told officials on Friday. grant recipients and local tourism officials.

They gathered at the Palace Theater in Greensburg for an official announcement of the grants, which were awarded by the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program.

Among them was Michael Tusay, executive director of the Latrobe Art Center in downtown Latrobe. The center received $ 8,000 for marketing.

“This grant helps us a lot,” Tusay said.

While the the announcement of grants has been made Friday, the money will not be distributed until the beginning of January, said Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands. It must be spent by 2022. GO Laurel Highlands is the state’s official marketing organization for destinations in Westmoreland, Somerset and Fayette counties. It was once known as the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

Funding for tourism-related businesses is generally based on a 5% tax on rooms booked in hotels and other accommodation during the previous year.

But due to restrictions from last year’s covid pandemic, the breakdown for 2022 is based on income generated from 22 months of housing tax, said Anna Weltz, spokesperson for GO Laurel Highlands.

Distributions for the pre-covid year of 2019 were approximately $ 368,000.

“If you hadn’t brought people here, we wouldn’t have (hotel) tax,” Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher said.

Thirty-eight of the organizations received grants for marketing purposes, which must be spent to attract visitors from out of county to explore Westmoreland attractions.

There were nine applicants who were not approved by the county tourism grant review committee.

GO Laurel Highlands took marketing dollars during covid restrictions last year and sought to attract tourists from the Washington, DC and New York areas, Nemanic said, assuming residents of those areas wanted to leave town to enjoy the outdoors.

Living Treasures Wild Animal Park in Donegal received the most grants – $ 25,000 for marketing and a $ 10,000 capital grant to create a concession stand to serve visitors who might otherwise travel outside the region to eat. .

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg received just over $ 25,000 for “out-of-county-focused marketing efforts” to support its Stephen Towns exhibit which opens Jan. 30, along with two other exhibits. which he will present next year. , said Claire Ertl, spokesperson for the museum.

The Greensburg Civic Theater has received a grant of $ 3,555 for marketing and a grant of $ 16,500 for the purchase of wireless microphones, which will improve productions, especially musicals, said Margaret Ryan, a member of the board of directors.

Friends of SummerSounds, a Greensburg organization that draws about 30,000 people to the city for free concerts in St. Clair Park, received a $ 15,000 marketing grant for a multimedia grant to promote the concerts of the next year. Gene James, founder of SummerSounds, said they have been successful in marketing to communities along the Parkway East corridor in the Pittsburgh area.

“Twelve percent of our audience is from out of county,” James said.

Joe Napsha is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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