EDA Grant Funding your Digital Visitor Experience Strategy

Civitas has been hosting excellent sessions walking the tourism and destination marketing industry through funding announced in late- July by the Economic Development Administration (EDA). A summary of the two types of grants, who is eligible to apply, and the suggested deadline is here: EDA Travel Grants One Pager.

I’ll be walking you through your immediate opportunity to use this funding to improve the resilience of your destination for future emergencies using an omnichannel solution. Your strategy should include using digital visitor experience systems like True Omni as a platform to diversify your tourism product and communicate changing conditions in-market to visitors.

1) It’s All About Resiliency. 

The destinations that were most often adversely affected by the travel pause lacked a strong outdoor recreation product offering. These grants are for you. Your destination needs to build the ability to connect visitors to travel campaigns, information, and education of local businesses in real-time. Our systems offer easy to create and manage geo-based notifications, digital trails, itineraries, maps, translations, and more – with each solution leveraging your existing systems. All shareable digitally to place these programs into the hands of your visitors on any type of device.

Many destinations got creative during the pandemic and prepared outdoor itineraries, lists and rules of businesses that were open or had changes in operation or engagement. Or if you were an outdoor destination, diverting visitors away from overcrowded areas and to off-the-beaten-path experiences was an acute need. Destination stewardship and content that reflects your community values is a higher priority than ever for the tourism industry, take advantage of this funding to strengthen your ability to continue similar programs.

2) Agile Execution of New Experience Programs

The Longwoods Silver Linings 2020 Study found that visitors doing less advance research for their trips, with younger travelers increasingly on the move. Connecting your new programs designed to meet the moment with last-minute low-information travelers is a learning we can all agree on from the pandemic experience. Digital systems allow for the nimble execution of new programs, increasing the amount of data and information you can acquire, and providing more personalized services. The power to understand where people go and what they do allows DMO’s to use this for more effective marketing and future planning.

It’s difficult to predict what the next emergency may be, digital systems are a powerful tool for marketers because they can be updated in real-time. Cloud-based systems have made the speed at updating and tailoring content faster than ever. We’ve heard from so many during the pandemic that reliance on print materials resulted in warehouses full of unused, outdated materials. Integrating digital sharing of information equals a reduction in paper that benefits the visitor and your sustainability efforts.

3) Applying for the Competitive Tourism Grant to Fund Digital

 

If you are a local DMO or other qualifying entity from the reference links above, the “Competitive Tourism Grant” is going to be the best fit.

Your Grant Supported Goals:

 
  • Create or revise a strategic plan that includes an in-market digital communication platform to support resiliency and sustainability efforts, including capital improvement funds to execute.
  • Provide a state-of-the-art visitor facility for attracting and engaging younger and international visitors. Services should include digital language translations, the ability to share brochures and information and provide incentives that are trackable to show long-term value. This could include rebuilding or remodeling your Visitor or Welcome Centers.
  • Implement digital systems, kiosks and digital signage for your visitor center, convention center, downtown corridor, airport, or other high traffic areas that can support your emergency communication strategy and brand messaging.
  • Building digital infrastructure to help provide contactless and safe options for visitors. Providing both physical and digital ways to get information, send alerts, and communicate.

Things to Consider:

 
  • If you have already had funding approved for this type of project under the grant flagged for state-level organizations, you cannot double-dip.
  • For an omnichannel in-market digital system like True Omni, the up-front investment is the most significant expense. This should be covered by the grant, you should review if your organization is able to budget for a nominal ongoing service and support fee.
  • The grant requires that all federal policies and laws be adhered to for implementation, True Omni is experienced in meeting this requirement, ADA and others.
  • These systems present the opportunity to build an awareness advertising and information network to drive ongoing revenue and offset the costs to sustain the centers long term.
  • The suggested deadline to apply is January 31, 2022. They are accepting applications on a rolling basis now. Please contact us to prepare your estimates for application and budgets.

Contact us by calling at 833-300-6664 or emailing at info@trueomni and our team will help you look at options that best fit your organization.

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