MADISON — While much of the focus lately has been on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the live music and events industry, it certainly isn’t the only industry struggling right now.

Gov. Tony Evers and Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney on Monday announced the launch of the Tourism Relief to Accelerate Vitality and Economic Lift (TRAVEL) stimulus grant program. This $8 million effort is aimed at providing support to the tourism industry. Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, TRAVEL grants will be distributed to Wisconsin’s tourism promotion and tourism development organizations for the purposes of resuming business operations and helping restore economic activity stemming from the COVID19 public health emergency.

“The tourism industry is among the hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Evers in a statement. “The TRAVEL grants are designed to sustain local operations, staffing, and relief stimulus activities to drive immediate spending and reinforce safe travel in support of local businesses across the state.”

Two types of grant funding will be available through the TRAVEL grants: funds to support the continuation of operations due to impacts of COVID-19 and marketing funds to promote a safe and healthy experience for travelers and resident consumers amid the COIVD-19 public health emergency. Tourism promotion and tourism development organizations can apply for one or both types of grant funding. Longterm marketing campaigns unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic are not eligible.

This effort is funded through the state’s discretionary Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars. The Department of Tourism is accepting applications now through 4 p.m. on Sept. 28 and grants will be announced by late October.

According to a press release, over 113.2 million tourism-related visits statewide generated an estimated $22.2 billion, including $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue. The tourism industry supports 202,217 full- and part-time jobs in Wisconsin and last year, the state achieved a return on investment of $8 in tax revenue per $1 promotional spend.