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Missouri receives grant to help tourism industry recovery

Help is on the way for Missouri’s tourism industry, decimated by state and local lockdown orders. Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday announced a $15 million grant to help make attractions safer.

“So many Missouri destinations and businesses are working hard to stay open, to support the countless jobs that depend on this industry, while protecting the safety of their workers and their customers,” said Rob Dixon, director of the state Department of Economic Development.

The CARES Act funding, signed in to law by President Trump, will be designated for destination marketing organizations, which are entities that promote Missouri as a place to visit. The money can be used for things such as payroll relief and reimbursement for safety equipment. The state’s top tourist spots such as Kansas City, St. Louis  and Branson will benefit in addition to other destinations.

“Qualified DMOs can apply to have costs associated with things such as temperature screenings at events or event facilities offset through this program,” said Stephen Foutes, director of the Department of Tourism. Foutes said conventions are non-existent now in many Missouri communities because of COVID. Dixon said about 58,000 Missouri foodservice workers lost their jobs between March and June, because of the pandemic. Missouri’s tourism industry generated about $14 billion in 2019.

Dixon said tourism in the Branson area has dropped significantly from COVID-19, in both Stone and Taney Counties. “We’ve seen early on that in particular higher unemployment rates and things like that than the rest of the state, and that kind of follows trends around the world, around the country in particular, of where those effects are seen,” he said.

Before COVID, millions of people visited Branson annually. The town has about 57,000 theater seats, and anglers from across the Midwest fish for bass and crappie on Table Rock Lake.

Parson praised the grant funding and said this is a great time to support local communities through tourism. DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams agreed and emphasized the importance of social distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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