Houston First adds depth to pool of grant funds for tourism promotion

Houston • Sept. 1, 2016

Houston First Corporation has strengthened its commitment to leisure travel by increasing grant funds for tourism initiatives by $25,000.

Houston First has committed $275,000 in grant money for projects that promote the leisure travel here. A year ago, Houston First issued 14 grants totaling $250,000 to create new marketing promotions targeted at potential visitors who live outside the region.

The Matching Grant Program is designed to give incentives to partnerships, providing a dollar-for-dollar match in marketing funds. The initiative is part of a multifaceted tourism initiative launched in 2015 by Houston First and Visit Houston, aimed at growing the number of visitors to the city to 20 million by 2018.

September 30, 2016, is the deadline for submitting a grant application for the next round of submissions.  The application can be found at https://houstonfirst.versaic.com/login and program details can be found here at http://www.visithoustontexas.com/travel-professionals/tourism-matching-grant-program.

A year ago, 27 applications were submitted for a slice of the $250,000 funding pie. Applications were reviewed and scored individually and presented to the HFC Board Tourism Committee for final grant selections.

"We were tickled by the response we received for a program in its first year," says Mike Waterman, president of Visit Houston and executive vice president of Houston First. "It showed the interest, enthusiasm and understanding by the local hospitality community of the need to expand leisure tourism promotion. We expect the same kind of response during this round of submittals ."

Collaboration is a critical component of the program, according to Jorge Franz, senior vice president of tourism for Visit Houston.

"Just as we did last year, we encourage new conversations about how we can collectively increase the visibility for all of our attractions," Franz said.

The Matching Grant program encourages applications with a focus on historical, cultural and other niche markets. One of the goals was to increase visibility for museums, attractions, art groups and other Houston experiences to potential visitors more than 150 miles away. Such visitors are more likely to stay in hotels, dine out and enjoy other activities in the city than those on a day-trip.