HOUSTON (Jan. 21, 2016) - Fourteen newly formed tourism initiatives will receive a total of $250,000 in grant funding from Houston First Corporation as part of its renewed commitment to grow leisure travel to the city and surrounding region.

Organizations as varied as the Alley Theatre, the Children's Museum of Houston, the Bryan Museum, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston International Dance Coalition worked collaboratively with other partners to create new tourism packages that will be marketed to potential visitors outside the region. The new tourism Matching Grant Program was designed to incentivize partnerships, providing a dollar-for-dollar match in marketing funds for such projects. The initiative is part of a multifaceted tourism initiative launched last spring by Houston First and Visit Houston, aimed at growing the number of visitors to the city to 20 million by 2018.

"We were excited by the response we received to this inaugural program," says Mike Waterman, president of Visit Houston and executive vice president of Houston First. "It shows the interest, enthusiasm and understanding by the local hospitality community of the need to expand leisure tourism promotion.   These creative marketing initiatives are critical to enhancing the appeal of the region in a very competitive destination marketing environment."

Twenty-seven prospective programs submitted applications for a share of $250,000 in grant funding. The applications were reviewed and scored individually by a staff working group. The group's recommendations were presented to the HFC Board Tourism Committee who made the final selections.  The group then came together to select the recipients. A list of the projects, the partners involved and short descriptions is available here.

"Collaboration was a critical component of this program," says Jorge Franz, senior vice president of Tourism for Visit Houston. "As we looked at efforts to grow leisure travel, one of the things we found lacking was communication and cooperation among likely partners. We set out to encourage new conversations and to increase visibility for our attractions, and I think we're achieving that."

The Marketing Matching Grant program encouraged applications with a focus on historic, cultural or 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 experience other activities in the city than those on a day-trip.

Camillia Rodgers, PhD. is the executive director of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum located in Midtown. The museum, which aims to educate the public about the contributions of African American soldiers throughout the nation's history, is the lead partner in one of the grant initiatives, along with the Marriott Westchase and SuperShuttle. "This marketing grant is so important to the museum and our partners because it will allow us to market to audiences outside of Houston and ultimately bring new visitors to the museum and to the city of Houston," Rodgers says. "The timing is perfect for us because it will help us significantly in advertising the sesquicentennial festivities of the Buffalo Soldiers taking place in Houston throughout 2016."

About Houston First Corporation/ Visit Houston
Houston First Corporation operates the city's finest convention and arts facilities to position Houston as a world-class destination. In 2014, Houston First and Visit Houston aligned their operations to create a single clear voice representing the city. Houston First owns the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel and manages more than 10 city-owned buildings, plazas and parking facilities. Properties include the George R. Brown Convention Center, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Wortham Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit HoustonFirst.com and VisitHouston.com.



A.J. Mistretta

Celia Morales