The Wisconsin Department of Tourism announced the launch of the Tourism Relief to Accelerate Vitality and Economic Lift (TRAVEL) stimulus grant program, an $8 million effort aimed at providing much-needed 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 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) public health emergency.

A total of 86,250 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Wisconsin since late last winter, slowing tourism and halting many community events in 2020. Locally, Vilas County has recorded 148 positive cases and Oneida County has had 260 positive cases.

“The tourism industry is among the hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Gov. Tony Evers Monday. “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 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 COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Tourism promotion and tourism development organizations can apply for one or both types of grant funding. Long-term 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. Full program details, eligibility standards, grant application, and program contact information are available at 

The Department of Tourism is accepting applications now through 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, and grants will be announced by late October. 

“We’re thankful to Gov. Evers for allocating CARES Act funding to this much-needed TRAVEL grant program,” said Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney. “While these grants will provide immediate opportunities to sustain the important economic development activities of tourism organizations, they will also fuel Wisconsin’s economic recovery in every sector that tourism touches.” 

Tourism is an important pillar of Wisconsin’s economy and the industry saw its biggest year on record in 2019. Vilas and Oneida counties depend on the tourism industry.

Over 113.2 million 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 of promotional spending. 

Oneida 2nd death

The Oneida County Public Health Department has confirmed the second death in the county associated with COVID-19. The individual was in their 70s and had underlying health conditions, according to Linda Conlon, Oneida County Health Department director and health officer.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of another one of our community members,” said Conlon. “We extend our sympathies to their loved ones and all impacted.”

Health officials across Wisconsin have seen a surge in cases in the last several weeks, some due to colleges and schools starting in late August. Testing and contact tracing efforts have been ramped up locally and statewide in an effort to battle the spread of the disease.

Conlon said COVID-19 can cause serious health complications and death, especially among older adults and people with chronic health conditions.

“That’s why it’s important that we all work together to prevent the spread of illness. Simple actions such as washing hands, physical distancing, wearing face coverings and staying home when sick can have a huge impact on the health and safety of Oneida County,” said Conlon. “Preventing COVID-19 requires a community approach. It’s important that we continue to take steps to protect one another, especially our most vulnerable.”