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City looks to boost tourism sector with new marketing, website efforts

Good news: The Waynesboro tourism sector brought in $27 million to the local economy in 2009 and contributed $4 million in taxes to the city.

Sobering news: We’ll have to wonder how we would have done if we’d been trying.

The city, for instance, doesn’t even have a tourism website, the tourism department’s presence on the web being a page contained and constrained within the main city municipal website. The brochure used to market the city as a travel destination, meanwhile, is badly outdated to the point of being irrelevant.

Credit to the Economic Development Authority, City Council and the new Tourism Association of Greater Waynesboro – they’re doing something about it. An effort to set the city on course to the development of a new tourism marketing strategy was initiated in January. In March, City Council approved $35,000 to go toward the development of a new printed brochure and a standalone city tourism website.

The Roanoke-based O’Connor Group is leading the development effort. A brochure is in final-draft phase right now, and the website is expected to go live by Oct. 1.

“I think this is a steppingstone for us to be able to market to key markets. These are really just the first steps toward an effective tourism program,” said Colleen Fridley, the co-chair of the Tourism Association of Greater Waynesboro and the sales and marketing director at the Best Western Waynesboro Inn.

“The more that we can do to promote the Greater Waynesboro area, to get Waynesboro in people’s minds, the better it is for Waynesboro. Tourism should be a gold mine here,” said Bill Aldridge, the owner of the Tree Streets Inn bed-and-breakfast and also co-chair of the Tourism Association of Greater Waynesboro.

And it is already, in a way, with the $27 million in economic activity generated in 2009 representing a 7 percent slice of the overall local economy. The city isn’t projecting what impact the new brochure and new website will have on those numbers. Assistant city manager Jim Shaw told that the amount of money commited to the project “is a very, very small percentage of overall tourism spending in the city.”

“Basically you’d just need to increase tourism spending by some fraction of 1 percent to make this thing pay for itself,” Shaw said.

The sales pitch is based on the concept Waynesboro: Your Way, establishing Waynesboro as a base camp for travelers, city economic-development director Greg Hitchin said.

“We’re close to a lot of different things, and that’s one of the features that the website and brochure will promote,” Hitchin said. “We’re a relatively inexpensive place to stay, we have a small, hometown feel. We have chain restaurants, we have hometown restaurants. You can buy local, you can get fast food. And you can go these x number of things all within two hours of here. You’re interested in history? Here’s a whole list of things you can do within two hours of here. You’re interested in agriculture? Well, there’s all these wineries and breweries within two hours of here. Culturally there are a number of things to do within two hours of here.

“Come here, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, relax in a small town, and anything a family wants to do, you can do it within two hours of here,” Hitchin said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at