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Northern Shenandoah Valley sees increase in tourist dollars

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Matthew Chave of Perth, Australia looks over a Civl War marker outside the Front Royal Warren County Visitors Center on East Main Street on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

Tourism numbers in Shenandoah County in 2011 were up 8 percent and were on track with the strides seen statewide, said Tourism and Marketing Director Natalie Wills.

In 2010, tourists spent $162 million in the county, and that grew to $175 million last year, Wills said.

"We're a leader in the valley," she said. "I believe strongly that that's due to the brand and having the name of Shenandoah for the county."

Gov. Bob McDonnell recently announced that tourism brought more than $20 billion into Virginia last year. That's an 8 percent jump from the previous year, according to a news release from the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association.

More than $200,000 jobs and more than $1.3 billion in tax revenue were due to tourism, the third largest industry in the commonwealth, according to the travel association, which last year started a regionwide marketing campaign. In the Shenandoah Valley, tourism brought in more than $2 billion and supports more than 20,000 jobs.

Combined with the diversity of tourist attractions, including Main Street America, Bryce Resort, wineries, Shenandoah Caverns, fall festivals and the New Market Battlefield, the county does well, she said.

While Front Royal Town Manager Steve Burke didn't have tourism numbers at hand, he said the number of visitors was up this summer compared to last.

"Our tourist center has been continuing to see visitors even beyond the summer months," he said Tuesday. "I think it's a mixture of everything."

Some are visiting Skyline Drive, while others are coming back for the weekend after visiting from D.C. in the past, Burke said.

The area is being marketed with a number of other tourism groups in the area, he said, and a phone app is being developed for hikers.

The Shenandoah Valley Travel Association website is at www.visitshenandoah.org.

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