Finance Committee Recommends $137K in Tourism Grants

The Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has recommended the distribution of  $135,900 in grants to nine organizations to promote tourism in Loudoun County.

The money comes from Loudoun’s transient occupancy tax, a tax on overnight stays in guest accommodations like hotels and bed and breakfasts. Under state code, a portion of that tax revenue must be spent on tourism and travel—feeding back into the tourism tax base.

Last year, the first year of a new, standardized application process for tourism tax grant funding, the county government found itself with more money than it could spend. The county had $680,000 available for grants, but received only three applications that added up to $25,000. Supervisors funded all three.

This year, the county government ramped up marketing for the program and received 15 applications totaling $307,000. The finance committee recommended funding nine for a total of $135,900. The county had about $1.1 million available.

Even so, some supervisors were skeptical of the recommendations produced through the application review process, such as a $3,000 to install a LOVE Sign in the Lovettsville Town Square.

“I’m not going to oppose them, but I would always encourage more scrutiny during the application process to ensure that they truly do meet the standard of encouraging more tourism dollars, instead of just being nice things,” said committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).

Notably unfunded among the applications: a $5,000 request from the Land Trust of Virginia to support the “Tour de Conservation Easement,” a bike ride over gravel roads across Loudoun and Fauquier counties, including through five private, conserved properties. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), absent from the meeting, relayed a request for an explanation for that exclusion.

Budget Director Erin McLellan said the Land Trust had a good application. But she said the people reviewing the applications could not tie the event to generating transient occupancy tax revenue in Loudoun.

“The event, which is a cycling event, takes place mostly in other counties, surrounding counties to Loudoun,” McLellan said. “And all of the businesses—the business partners, the hotels, all of the economic activity—was centered around other counties, not Loudoun.”

The proposals recommended for funding range from a national Gaelic games competition at Morven Park to marketing the Waterford Fair.

They include:

  • Loudoun Museum, $5,000 for the annual Leesburg Hauntings Tours.
  • Mid-Atlantic Gaelic Games, Inc., $10,000 to support the three-day national Gaelic games finals at Morven Park in August. That will include hurling, camogie, and men’s and women’s Gaelic football.
  • Mosby Heritage Area, $5,000 toward the 22nd Conference on the Art of Command in the Civil War in October at the Middleburg Community Center.
  • Round Hill Outdoors Committee, $4,000 for the inaugural Appalachian Trail Festival in Round Hill, celebrating the town being designated as an official Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
  • Sweet Jazz Festival LLC, $25,000 for the second annual Tracy Hamlin’s Sweet Wine and Jazz Festival at Tarara Winery.
  • The Arc of Loudoun, $10,000 for Shocktober, the popular haunted house at Paxton Manor in Leesburg each October.
  • The Town of Lovettsville, $3,000 for a LOVE Sign in the town square by December.
  • The Town of Middleburg, $60,000 for a marketing effort in partnership with the Middleburg Business and Professional Association and the Middleburg Community Center.
  • The Waterford Foundation, $14,900 for digital marketing to other mid-Atlantic states for the 75th Waterford Fair’s new exhibit, “The Civil War Through the Eyes of African Americans.

Not recommended for funding were applications from the Bluemont Citizens Association, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, National Independency Day Parade Inc., The National Conference Center, and the Town of Purcellville.

Supervisors on the finance committee recommended the Board of Supervisors grant that funding by a 4-0-1 vote, with Buffington absent.

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