ROANOKE, Va. – The Virginia Tourism Corporation is helping hard-hit tourism industries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through a new program: the DRIVE 2.0 Statewide Tourism Plan.
Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge is in the running for a $10,000 grant.
“You want to look at what makes your region grow,” said VP of Public Affairs and Destination Development Catherine Fox.
She said this program comes at a critical time in recovery. Lodging taxes make up about 90% of Visit VBR’s revenue, which dropped from 3.4 million to 2.2 million for the 2020-2021 year.
“It was an opportunity for us to build on our financial resources of which were limited,” said Fox of the grant program.
After surveying local officials and other stakeholders in Roanoke City, Salem, Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Franklin County, they found what drew in visitors: outdoor activities and attractions.
“Our outdoor product, our outdoor recreation and just nature and outdoors just being a prime way to bring visitors to our region,” said Fox.
Pulaski County formed its own tourism office in January. Director Peggy White said the DRIVE 2.0 program was instrumental in assessing their target audience, focus and creating a slogan: “Play Outside.”
“Since most of our tourism is outside,” said White, “In that area, we were not really affected by COVID. Some of our outdoor places saw the best years they’ve ever had.”
They said DRIVE 2.0 provided them with new tools and new strategies to drive tourism.
After surveying stakeholders and government officials, they both found one thing in common: the outdoors is what drives people into the area.
Visit VBR plans to use the $10,000 for signage advertising Carvin’s Cove and trail development.
Pulaski County Tourism wants to buy merchandise, brand their new slogan “Play Outside” and focus on digital marketing.
“We could really figure out, ‘Why are people coming and why do we want them to come?” said White.
“We see that summer is going to be strong and people are just looking to get out and do vacations anywhere,” said Fox.