State grant to boost tourism in greater Amherst area

  • A view of Main Street in downtown Amherst on Saturday afternoon, March 14, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, May 03, 2021

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce intends to use funding from a state grant to launch a marketing campaign to draw visitors to attractions in Amherst and surrounding communities.

The chamber received a $116,655 grant last week from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism as part of $1.59 million given to 59 tourism organizations, chambers of commerce, and cities and towns.

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 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 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 nonresident visitors.

“The tourism and hospitality industry is vital to the economic well-being of Massachusetts,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in 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, with the University of Massachusetts and other colleges shutting down last March, 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.

The only other Hampshire County community receiving a grant is Ware, which will use $12,143 for branding banners and a media marketing project.

Holyoke will benefit from the $47,500 to the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. In partnership with the Springfield Regional Chamber and its Minority Business Council, the grant will highlight women and minority-owned businesses through a program titled “Hidden Gems of the Gateway Cities.”

Other grant money in the region went to Spirit of Springfield, Inc. for its annual Bright Nights event, Springfield Museums for Seuss in Springfield and The East of the River Chamber of Commerce that serves East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham.