State grant to boost tourism in greater Amherst area

  • A view of Main Street in downtown Amherst. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/26/2021 3:35:53 PM

AMHERST — A marketing campaign to draw visitors to attractions in Amherst and surrounding communities will be undertaken with support from a state grant.

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce has received a $116,655 award from the state Office of Travel and Tourism as part of $1.59 million given to 59 tourism organizations, chambers of commerce and municipalities.

With the largest recovery grant received in the Pioneer Valley, the chamber will be able to showcase the Amherst area, including Hadley, Belchertown, Sunderland, Leverett, Shutesbury and Pelham, as a hub for culture, education, dining, agriculture and local business.

Chamber Executive Director Claudia Pazmany said in a statement that the grant is a vote of confidence in Western Massachusetts.

“We all know why we live and work here, but this allows us to tell that story to attract visitors and to also amplify our pride to all those who have now moved here as a result of the urban flight of the pandemic, and to instill true value in the quality of life we hold dear here,” Pazmany said.

Tigerweb, an Amherst-based marketing company, will lead the initiative that will use photography, video and creative content to focus on farm-to-table enterprises, outdoor recreational sites, and art and cultural institutions, including museums and historical sites.

The chamber is partnering with the Amherst Business Improvement District, the Five Colleges Consortium and Museums10, the Hampshire Regional Tourism Council, and town officials in Amherst and Sunderland.

Grants from the state program aim to support the My Local MA campaign, enhance tourism recovery and increase non-resident visitors.

“The tourism and hospitality industry is vital to the economic well-being of Massachusetts,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press release announcing the grants. “Our administration recognizes the challenges this industry has faced during the pandemic, and these grants will support the commonwealth’s recovery by allowing grant recipients to market to their local strengths.”

State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, wrote a letter on the chamber’s behalf advocating for the grant, explaining how Amherst’s economy has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and other colleges shutting down in March 2020, and mostly operating at reduced capacities in the fall and spring.

“Lack of graduation ceremonies, sporting events and family weekends, as well as the severe decrease in the number of students in the area, has had a crippling effect on the Amherst economy,” Comerford wrote.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.



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