Waynesboro, Nelson County looking to revive local tourism sector

virginia tourismWaynesboro and Nelson County have each received $10,000 grants from Virginia Tourism to go toward marketing efforts aimed at getting visitors to come back as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The grants are part of more than $866,000 being made available through Virginia Tourism’s WanderLove Recovery Grant Program, a new grant program made available to Virginia’s Destination Marketing Organizations across the Commonwealth that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 public health response to fund recovery marketing initiatives.

Waynesboro will use the grant funds to inspire road trippers to discover the “Seven Wanders of Waynesboro,” from our perfect location in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, to our budding arts scene and wonderfully unique dining options.

“We are excited to begin building our WanderLove campaign thanks to the generous support of the Virginia Tourism Corporation,” says Jennifer Callison, tourism and marketing manager for the City of Waynesboro.

Visitors to Waynesboro spent more than $37 million locally in 2018, supporting 371 work opportunities and contributing more than $2.8 million in local and state tax revenue.

“We hope to leverage our strategic location in this initiative to encourage people to explore all of the fun, safe activities they can do in and around town,” Callison said.

Nelson County Tourism will use the grant funds to position Nelson County as a road trip destination with print, social and digital media campaigns, leveraging the county’s many road trip adventures to inspire travel here this summer and fall.

These road trips will also highlight and provide inspiration for outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns and Nelson County’s unique “roadside attraction” – LOVEworks.

“The primary economic engine of Nelson County is tourism,” said Maureen Kelley, Nelson County’s director of economic development and tourism. “Nelson County was the first accredited rural tourism program in the Commonwealth. However, because of its reliance on the hospitality business sector, the county’s tax revenue saw a sharp decline the last quarter of its fiscal year, which occurred during the beginning of the health crisis.”

Visitors to Nelson County spent more than $211 million locally in 2018, supporting 1,744 work opportunities and contributing more than $15 million in local and state tax revenue.

The tourism and hospitality industries have also been among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, experiencing decreased revenue and job loss, along with the temporary closure of many tourism-related businesses.

A revived tourism economy can help spur new economic activity and inject critical funds back into Virginia communities.

“Along with the leadership of Virginia Tourism Corporation, this grant will help position Nelson as we carefully and safely welcome visitors. There is a lot of pent-up demand for leisure travel, and people are seeking safe, close-to-home destinations that allow for social distancing and access to open spaces,” Kelley said.

Story by Chris Graham


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