13 communities launch Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership

Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing in Shenandoah County, speaks at the launch of the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership on Wednesday. Justin McIlwee/Daily

WEYERS CAVE – “Today’s Shenandoah Valley.” That’s the slogan for the newly formed Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership, which held its launch celebration Wednesday at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

Thirteen communities, ranging from Winchester to Lexington, have joined together to form the partnership, whose mission, according to a news release, is “to promote the Shenandoah Valley as an outstanding year-round destination for visitors from around the world.”

Jean Clark, the director of the Regional Area Tourism Board in Rockbridge County, started the celebration by explaining exactly what brought the communities together to work on such an undertaking.

“We organized, we stratagized and we dreamed of ways to present the Shenandoah Valley as a travel destination,” Clark said. “From brand marketing, to social media, to public relations and websites, sales, finance and logistics, it’s been a complete team effort.”

Chris Canfield, the vice president of Partnership Alliance Marketing with Virginia Tourism Cooperation, then spoke on why tourism is so important to Virginia and what makes it a successful tourist state. He explained that, “Every day in Virginia, from travelers alone, they generate $4.5 million in state and local taxes.”

Logo for the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership.

To help brand the Shenandoah Valley, the partnership received bids from 50 marketing firms, one, they explained, pitching ideas all the way from Sweden. In the end, they went with Mikula Harris, a branding, advertising and marketing firm out of Roanoke. David Mikula, one of the founding partners, explained that the process his team used to come up with a brand for the Shenandoah Valley.

“It is now time to capitalize off the national and international name recognition of the Shenandoah Valley,” Mikula said. “The Shenandoah Valley has been immortalized in music, poetry and literature. It probably has more name recognition than any other place or region in the state of Virginia. The strategy for promoting the Shenandoah Valley is backed by solid research including a lot of great input from visitors, stakeholders and people who know and love the Shenandoah Valley.”

Mikula explained that the brand strategy consisted of three pillars: “associate the exceptional dining with the valley’s heritage for family farming, promote the full scope of the dozens of towns and the full range and encourage people to get out on the open road and go explore as many of those unique town as possible, and promote the Shenandoah Valley as a four-season destination for outdoor adventure and outdoor lovers.”

The three pillars are also highlighted on the valley’s new tourism website, VirginiasShenandoahValley.com. Visitors to the region can go to that site to check out everything the Shenandoah Valley has to offer.

Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing in Shenandoah County, explained what this new partnership means to Shenandoah County and how the individual towns will be involved.

“The main reason behind this would be to increase economic development within our communities,” French said. “Oftentimes people look at tourism and economic development as separate industries, but they work side by side. As you increase the visitation, people are coming and are spending their dollars in our communities, and that’s helping to support our local businesses.

“Shenandoah County has one centralized tourism office to promote the entire county. I work very closely with each of the towns and we have representatives from each one of the towns. We developed a new marketing campaign within the last year and all of our marketing now includes each of the towns being listed. I go and present to the town councils to keep them informed of the changes in the industry and what we’re doing to work for them and help promote their communities. It takes an ongoing cooperation between myself and the folks in those communities because they are our assets that we’re promoting.”

On The Net

Website: VirginiasShenandoahValley.com