Tourism grant to help with marketing

Jenna French

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has announced a marketing leverage grant that will bring more than $900,000 in funding to 43 state tourism programs. Of that $927,000, Shenandoah County received $50,000, tied for the highest amount received by any municipality. The funds will be bestowed on a matching basis.

The grant, which came about from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Marketing Leverage Program, is intended to help local tourism organizations increase visitation by leveraging marketing dollars, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“The grants offered by the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Marketing Leverage Program provide tourism businesses with a powerful funding resource to market themselves to travelers both across the United States and internationally,” McAuliffe stated in the release. “These funds provide localities and businesses across the Commonwealth with the necessary resources to continue to attract visitors and increase demand for Virginia products in the global marketplace.”

Jenna French, Shenandoah County’s director of tourism, said the funds will go a long way toward helping her office increase travel to the county.

“We are extremely grateful to Virginia Tourism Corporation and the governor for receiving this grant, which nearly doubles our marketing budget,” she said. “For a small locality such as ours, this is huge and affords us opportunities we would otherwise not have, such as video marketing, and major publications such as Southern Living.”

French said that the grant will allow her office consistent marketing opportunities, which she said are invaluable and previously unavailable.

“In the past, Shenandoah County has rarely been able to afford a consistent marketing presence throughout the entire year,” she said. “With a marketing budget of $50,000, one-tenth of our budget could easily be consumed with a single print ad in a quality publication. Thanks to this grant, we are able to use our new video as a marketing tool on digital channels such as YouTube, SpotX and YuMe. We will also be working with TripAdvisor, Virginia.org, Southern Living, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Virginia Living, Washington Post and others to launch a well-rounded marketing campaign within our target demographics.”

More specifically, the grant will help fund the county tourism department’s new website, French said.

“As I stated in the meeting, the grant will also enable us to develop a robust new website to promote our attractions and tourism partners,” she said. “We submitted an RFQ for website proposals this past summer and even our lowest bid came in over what was originally budgeted. To me, this website is so important. The site needs to be user friendly and easy to navigate. We could have a fantastic marketing budget but if a consumer can’t find what they are looking for on our website, we’ve lost them.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com