By James Heffernan -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County tourism office plans to use $7,300 in state grant money to enhance its online marketing efforts.
"Shenandoah County Shines" is among more than 40 projects across the state to receive funding from the Virginia Tourism Corp. Each grant is matched by funds from a minimum of three local organizations and used to support marketing initiatives such as advertising, Web development, online marketing and brochures.
Gov. Bob McDonnell recently increased funding for the program as part of his efforts to boost economic development through tourism.
Natalie Wills, Shenandoah County's director of tourism and marketing, said the money will primarily be used to add photography and video to the office's website, www.shenandoahtravel.org.
"It will not be your standard stuff," she said of the additions, with YouTube channels and resources for travel writers among the featured links.
The site has continually been upgraded since Wills assumed the director post six months ago, and Shenandoah County Tourism's online presence now also includes a Facebook page and Twitter site.
"Online will be our main focus" going forward, she said, as most travelers now use the Internet when choosing destinations. And from a research standpoint, online marketing "makes it a little easier" to track results, she said.
The county has been actively promoting its battlefields, monuments and markers during this year's Civil War sesquicentennial celebration. The tourism website has a page dedicated to the war, with a focus on the new Hupp's Hill Civil War Park in Strasburg, which is part of the neighboring Cedar Creek Battlefield and Belle Grove National Historical Park, and the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market.
The next round of the state Tourism Marketing Leverage Program will open Monday. Localities interested in applying are encouraged to visit www.vatc.org for more information.