Report: Tourism revenue increased in 2014
The Northern Shenandoah Valley experienced a boost in tourism traffic and spending last year, according to the latest data from the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
The data, which was released last week, reported a 4 percent bump in total expenditures by visitors from $192 million in 2013 to $199.8 million in 2014 for Shenandoah County.
Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing for Shenandoah County, said, “Having just shy of $200 million in spending here is a pretty impressive number, when you look at the surrounding counties and cities in the Shenandoah Valley.”
The state as a whole saw a spike of 4.1 percent in money spent by tourists last year, with more than the $22 billion brought in.
Warren County saw the largest increases in 2014, with a 7 percent spike from about $125 million in 2013 to $134 million in last year.
Tim Smith, Front Royal Visitor Center coordinator, said, “The most important thing, I think, is the lodging. I mean, people are coming and they are staying overnight … that’s what we want to see.”
Between traffic to Shenandoah National Park or surrounding destinations, Smith added that the local businesses and the downtown area will benefit from the increasing trends in travelers to the area.
Smith and the town are working through a program to enhance tourism business and traffic called DRIVE Tourism. It’s a program through the Virginia Tourism Corporation that is aimed at helping localities boost tourism.
He said they are looking to gather local stakeholders and businesses together to work on the county and town’s tourism goals – with an immediate goal of improving the gateways to the town.
“The whole goal is attract people to the area,” he said. “And whether the increases are a reflection of the marketing efforts … that’s kind of a tough thing to measure.”
Smith said that he is expecting to see even better figures in 2015 for Front Royal.
“Based on what’s been going on this year, I think the numbers are going to go up again,” Smith said, adding that visitation to the Visitor Center on Main Street was up 1,000 people from where it was in July 2014.
“It just seems like things are doing well. There’s been a lot of positive things happening this year,” Smith said.
French noted that one of the key drivers of these increases in the valley, the state and even the nation – more than $790 billion was spent domestically on travel and tourism in 2014 – is how and where people are spending their money.
“People, as they’ve gained more confidence in the economy, are starting to travel more,” she said. “But there’s really been an emphasis on experiences, and people building lasting, memorable experiences.”
French noted, “It’s still a competitive world out there. You’ve got places all over the country and the world people can travel to. If they choose Virginia, what makes them choose us?”
She added, “We still have to really market ourselves a desirable destination.”
French cited outdoor recreation – a hallmark of tourism in the county as well as the region – as a positive driver, but also stressed the role additional avenues have played on the county’s success.
“There’s just really a nice variety here within our county,” French said, noting the county’s two craft breweries and seven vineyards.
At the same time, French said, “I’m a firm believer that visitors don’t see boundaries, that they travel to the region. Oftentimes they’re in Shenandoah County, but they see themselves as traveling to the Shenandoah Valley.”
Collectively, the Northern Shenandoah Valley – or the counties of Page, Warren, Shenandoah, Frederick and the City of Winchester – brought in $546,000 in tourism spending last year.
“A big effort of ours is going to be to promote the valley to visitors, and then use our own county to complement those and get people interested,” she added.
The full 2014 Virginia Tourism Corporation’s economic impact report can be found at http://bit.ly/1OZESle.
Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org
At the time of its original publication on Sept. 21, this should have reported that Shenandoah’s tourism revenue for 2013 and 2014 was $192 million and $199.8 million. It also should have reported that Warren County’s tourism revenue for 2013 and 2014 was $125 million and $134 million.