Following a year of restricted travel, Oregon is ready and eager to welcome back visitors—and the state’s tourism commission just demonstrated its enthusiasm by laying out a $2.4 million dollar welcome mat.

Today, Travel Oregon announced which businesses and attractions would receive money through its Competitive & Recovery Grant Program. The funds are meant to help enhance and expand the visitor experience and prepare communities for COVID-safe travel. In this latest grant cycle, Travel Oregon received more than 400 applications seeking more than $18 million total.

“These projects directly support Oregon’s tourism economy, from iconic Oregon attractions like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, to outdoor trail development, to retrofitting outdoor events to meet public health standards,” Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon, stated in a press release. “Many of these entities have been closed or were unable to hold their event in the last year because of COVID.”

Some of the beneficiaries include Feed the Mass, which will gain $50,000 in partnership with Feast Portland to hold a family-friendly outdoor food event at the Redd—a sprawling events space on Southeast Salmon Street; Oregon Ballet Theatre, also the recipient of $50,000 in order to produce performances outside on the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s waterfront campus; and the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, which will use its nearly $20,000 grant to add more outdoor amenities for restaurants.

It’s no secret that the pandemic dealt a huge blow to the state’s tourism industry last year. The latest Dean Runyan & Associates Economic Impact of Travel in Oregon report says that travel spending here declined by 49.5 percent, from $12.8 billion in 2019 to $6.5 billion in 2020. Employment directly related to tourism dropped by 22.1 percent. That translated to a loss of more than 26,000 jobs.

Multnomah County was hit particularly hard, since travel spending within its borders plummeted by 62 percent compared to the statewide average of 49.5 percent.