Capital Clicks

Iowa receives $5.3 million for tourism ads, improving rest stops

By: - November 8, 2021 5:04 pm

Travelers collect their bags at the Des Moines International Airport. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa will use a $5.27 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote tourism to the state and improve technology at four state-owned rest stops.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced Monday that the department has awarded $314 million in a first round of state grants. The money is meant to assist the tourism industry as it recovers from severely decreased travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The State Tourism grants give states and territories the flexible opportunity to boost their local tourism industry and ensure that jobs are restored and tourists return safely,” Raimondo said in a news release.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Economic Development Authority said Iowa’s $5.3 million grant will go toward tourism marketing and improving technology at Iowa’s four “welcome centers” in Davis City, Underwood, Wilton and Sergeant Bluff.

“As you know, tourism was hit especially hard during 2020,” wrote IEDA Spokesperson Jessica O’Riley in an email. “These funds will help increase visitation to Iowa destinations to pre-2020 levels.”

O’Riley said IEDA plans to keep promoting outdoor destinations that remained popular through the pandemic. She pointed toward the Iowa State Park Passport program, which encourages Iowans and visitors to explore the park system.

The first round of grant funding comes as the U.S. lifts international travel restrictions for people vaccinated against COVID-19. A news release from the federal Economic Development Administration called the removal of travel restrictions and the grant program “critical steps in the recovery of the travel and tourism sector from the coronavirus pandemic.”

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Reporter Katie Akin began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.