Bucks County's museums are bringing in traveling exhibits, events at its historic sites are being publicized, and other attractions are getting much-needed funding, thanks to a tourism grant program that since 2008 has handed out more than $1 million.
This week, 23 recipients of spring grants were announced, among them the Mercer Museum, which will use its $15,000 "for the fees for the Apron Chronicles Exhibit, and for promotion inside and beyond Bucks County," executive vice president Molly W. Lowell said.
The Friends of Washington Crossing will spend its $30,000 "to market our showcase events, such as the Christmas Crossing," said John Godzieba, who plays George Washington for the annual reenactment that draws thousands. "It's not just a regional event, but a national event."
The grant program is funded by the county's 3 percent hotel tax, which raises about $2.2 million a year. Of that, about $400,000 is used for grants.
With those awarded Tuesday, the program's total reached $1.27 million, said Jerry Lepping, executive director of the nonprofit tourist bureau Visit Bucks County.
Over the years, the grants have been used for redesigning websites, marketing, promotional videos, and capital improvements, he said. The top five recipients are the James A. Michener Art Museum, $185,000; Friends of Washington Crossing, $120,000; Mercer Museum, $115,000; Bucks County Wine Trail, $95,000; and the Pearl S. Buck House, $70,500.
Tourism is the second largest industry in the county, as well as in the state, Lepping said, generating $814 million in revenue in Bucks each year and supporting more than 11,000 jobs.
In the last 12 months, occupancy at the county's motels, hotels and B&Bs was up 2.8 percent, and total revenue 4.1 percent, Lepping said.
The increased business benefitted grant recipients such as Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve outside New Hope, which received a spring grant of $17,500.
"We'll use it to build an Audubon birding trail with interpretive panels identifying birds, so people understand the role plants play in keeping birds healthy," said Miles Arnott, executive director of the preserve.
"We'll also use it for marketing," he said, "to spread the word to birders and attract them to the county."