HOUSTON (January 5, 2017) –For the second year in a row  the Houston First Corporation (HFC) is awarding Matching Grants for tourism-related programs developed by local and regional organizations through the Tourism Marketing Matching Grant Program (MGP). This initiative, designed to bring together tourism organizations in Greater Houston and surrounding areas, is part of a larger effort launched in 2015 to increase leisure travel to our region.

A varied group of organizations including Lone Star Flight Museum, Da Camera, Fresh Arts and the Houston Marathon Committee are receiving grants this year (click here for a full list). These organizations worked collaboratively with other partners to create tourism packages that will be marketed to potential visitors outside the region. The MGP incentivizes partnerships, providing a dollar-for-dollar match in marketing funds. Last year’s program yielded over 3,000 room nights and an impact of more than $350,000 for our region.

All of the applications received for the Marketing Matching Grant Program were reviewed by a working group comprised of staff and local industry professionals.  A list of the 2017 winners, the partners involved and a short description for each project is attached.

"As we promote Houston as a travel destination to attract more visitors, it is important that we also focus on development of leisure travel product," said Jorge Franz, Senior Vice President of Tourism for Visit Houston. "The Matching Grant Program, regular educational seminars and our annual Tourism Summit all play an important role in encouraging residents and tourism professionals to collaborate and develop new initiatives.”

The 2017 Tourism Marketing Matching Grant Program encourages partners to focus on projects that highlight historic, cultural or niche markets.  One of the goals is 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.

The Alley Theatre was awarded a grant in 2016 and commented about their experience:  “Collaborating with the MFAH and METRO were key components of our package in terms of adding value and an additional experience; this is the first time the Alley has worked with both of these organizations in a formal manner.  We found that with the strength of our package, bringing these organizations together was surprisingly easy. The ability to work with both MFAH and METRO were additional benefits that would not have emerged without this grant,” said Katie Jackman, Director of Communications and Marketing for Alley Theatre.

Houston not only increased leisure tourism in 2016, but the city also landed in 6th place on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards for the 10 top U.S. Destinations on the Rise. The Travelers’ Choice award is based on millions of reviews from travelers reflecting ‘the best of the best’ for service, quality and customer satisfaction, according to TripAdvisor.

"TripAdvisor’s award means a great deal for Houston because it comes from travelers’ reviews,” said Mike Waterman, President of Visit Houston and Executive Vice President of Houston First. “I’m excited to see our hospitality community taking tourism to the next level. The response to the Marketing Matching Grant Program and the creativity of the projects, coupled with TripAdvisor’s award, only reaffirms Houston’s appeal as a tourist destination. We feel confident that we’re on the right path to reach our goal to attract 20 Million visitors by 2018.”

In addition to the MGP two other upcoming tourism events are taking place in the first quarter of 2017. The Forbes Travel Guide Hospitality Service Training will be held on January 23rd at The Houstonian Hotel, where representatives will share best practices for creating an engaging and memorable guest experience with local hospitality staff. Then, the 3rd Houston Tourism Summit takes place on March 30th at the George R. Brown Convention Center. More than 700 guests are expected to attend the one-day workshop.

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About Houston First Corporation and 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 the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau aligned their operations to provide a single clear voice for the city under the brand Visit Houston. Houston First owns the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel and manages 11 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, log on to HoustonFirst.com and VisitHouston.com

Media contact: Celia Morales cmorales@visithouston.com