Front Royal completes DRIVE Tourism program

Maurice Jones

FRONT ROYAL — As a tourism destination, the town is looking to enhance its brand and visitation through a new unified plan from a statewide initiative called DRIVE Tourism.

During a ceremony Tuesday at the Front Royal and Warren County Visitor Center, Virginia Secretary of Trade and Commerce Maurice Jones presented the town with a certificate for completing the DRIVE Tourism program.

The ceremony was one of the stops on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s “Cabinet on the Road” tour through the Shenandoah Valley that wrapped up Tuesday.

Jones said one of the program’s key benefits is “really focusing a team around looking at the assets in your region and really making a plan for how you want to maximize the tourism opportunities.”

Front Royal is one of 25 statewide communities to have been selected for the program, and one of the first three to complete it. The other two are Abingdon and Whitfield.

Niki Foster, president of the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, noted that during the six-month program, between 12 and 20 local stakeholders — such as The Daily Grind — were involved in the DRIVE workshops.

“I’m excited because it was a collaborative effort between all of the tourism stakeholders in the community,” she said.

Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation, explained that the inspiration for DRIVE Tourism “really comes from all of the participants, because they have the knowledge and the assets.”

“The workshops actually build a foundation for them to put the written plan together,” McClenny said. “They have a real framework for what those assets are going to look like.”

During the workshops, McClenny explained that towns look at what assets or tourism “drivers” that bring people into the area and always the “hubs around that.”

The workshops are designed for towns to put a visitation package together. McClenny said. “It really helps to develop a long-term thinking about assets and how they complement one another.”

Visitor Center Coordinator Tim Smith said that having local stakeholders or assets involved in the workshops “got everybody on the same page.”

Foster added, “Before [the workshops], we weren’t having a lot of conversations, but now you’ve got a large group involved.

“I think Tim [Smith] and I will work to bring more of our stakeholders in as we go through.”

Jones said Front Royal has a lot to offer in terms of history, outdoor attractions and its proximity to Washington D.C.

“It’s really important for a place like this to not be, if you will, on the sideline of the state’s overall plan,” Jones said.

The next step for the town, Jones noted, is to develop its multi-year plan to enhance tourism.

“We have an enormous amount of opportunity here in our community for tourism,” Foster said, citing the numerous destinations within the town’s limits, including the Shenandoah River and Skyline Drive.

“We’ve taken the first step. So we’ve pulled our stakeholders, and as we go along, I imagine that we’ll pick more folks up,” Foster said. “It’s about building our tourism, as well as expanding our marketing and our advertising.”

Smith said the program will give the town “some vision, I think, of what we can do and some ideas of things we didn’t think of before.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com