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Warner pushes Valley tourist-sector development

It can be like trying to herd cats to get localities to cooperate in the Shenandoah Valley on a strategy to promote the tourist sector.

For one, what is the Shenandoah Valley?

“How do you define the Shenandoah Valley?” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner asked the roughly 30 attendees at a Shenandoah Valley Regional Tourism Roundtable that he convened at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton on Monday.

The discussion that ensued – encompassing political, geological and cultural definitions – demonstrated the difficulty in trying to get people in the Valley tourist sector to come together on a plan of action.

Warner told reporters after the summit that he called together tourism-industry leaders to try to jumpstart the kind of effort that he did with success in Southwest Virginia during his term as governor.

“I’d seen some of the stuff take a little more root in Southwest Virginia,” Warner said. “I just feel like there are such assets here in the Shenandoah Valley, and I think about this as a consumer and as a promoter that it’s still – as much as they’ve got, it could be better. It could be presented better.”

Warner asked participants if it wouldn’t make more sense for localities and travel-industry associations to coordinate their web and print marketing efforts. The feedback: We could, but we could use some help getting there.

“When I was governor, I’d come to an event like this with a check in hand,” Warner joked in response, alluding to the tight fiscal environment in Washington.

A goal for Warner with the summit was to get people in the tourist industry talking – and thinking.

“It’s hard for a local jurisdiction to think, I’ve only got a tiny little bit of money, how do i not just promote what’s in Waynesboro, what’s in Staunton, what’s in Rockbridge? The idea here was saying, maybe you take 90 cents on the dollar and spend it on local, and you take 10 cents on the dollar goes to more regional efforts,” Warner said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at