‘We’re just starting to see the return of some of those tourism sectors,’ says head of visitors bureau
The Hilton Garden Inn in Iowa City (The Gazette)
Josh Schamberger, president of Think Iowa City (The Gazette)
IOWA CITY — Iowa City is investing $250,000 in pandemic relief funds to spur tourism and economic activity in the city.
The Iowa City Council unanimously agreed Monday evening to award $250,000 to Think Iowa City, formerly the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Half the funds will replace hotel/motel tax revenue that would have gone to Think Iowa City but was lost during the pandemic.
Hotel/motel tax revenue in Iowa City was $292,012 between April 2019 and March 2020, according to the city. Between April 2020 and March 2021, during the pandemic, revenue decreased to $165,577
The other half of the award will be used for tourism and visitor recovery grants, to be launched later this year.
Think Iowa City will use the program to help fund conferences, tournaments and special events, according to a city memo.
Iowa City is receiving $18.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The city council has used the money for various priorities, including financial assistance to the arts, culture and tourism industries.
Iowa City has formally approved spending around $3.5 million of the ARPA money, including $1.5 million to Johnson County’s direct assistance program, nearly $1 million to help CommUnity Crisis Services expand its mobile crisis outreach and more than $1 million to help Forest View mobile home tenants relocate.
The effects of the pandemic “were pretty dramatic” across all industries, including hospitality and tourism, said Josh Schamberger, Think Iowa City’s president.
“Two-and-a-half years later, we’re just starting to see some of the return of some of those tourism sectors, like conferences and meetings and other activities,” he said.
The grant program will provide a “direct return to Iowa City tourism, hospitality and community,” Schamberger said.
“It’ll amplify and ignite some of our most signature festivals and events, but we’ll also be using the program to incubate and incentivize additional opportunities,” he added.
Mayor Bruce Teague said this is a “vital opportunity” for the city.
The plan is to open the grant application period at the beginning of August, Schamberger said.
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