NEW MARKET – As the Shenandoah County Tourism Council starts revving its engine for the summer season, Strasburg has emerged as the early frontrunner of 2018.

“Things are bumping in Strasburg,” said Michelle Bixler, Strasburg economic development and marketing manager. “The Marriott just had a grand re-opening … Our big brewery that’s set to open in a few months is getting painted today … all the orange, the brick-color paint, I cannot wait to go back there. It’s going to make a huge difference in our streetscape right down the main street.”

“It’s overwhelming,” she added.

Jenna French, director of tourism and business development, agreed. She said the council sent a public relations representative to a Virginia Tourism Corporation event in Richmond last month that focused on new developments in regional communities.

“She actually picked out Strasburg, with the two new breweries up, the murals and the Holliday House Bed and Breakfast to be the highlight of what she focused on for Shenandoah County,” French said.

But tourism developments aren’t limited to Strasburg. French announced that the county was able to get attention from travel writers over President’s Day.

“We’re not like Winchester, where they have George Washington’s office, or Staunton, with Woodrow Wilson’s library, but we were able to make the connection with Mount Jackson being named after Andrew Jackson,” French said.

The county’s relationship with travel writers, especially with the website Roots Rated, has generated the bulk of the county tourism website’s traffic, French added.

Local artisan Kary Haun also announced Tuesday that registration for Gardens, Galleries and Grapes, the Artisan Trail’s annual spring event, closes Wednesday.

The event is scheduled for April 28–29, and over that weekend local artists throughout the county will open their personal studios to customers to come in and see what the artisans have been cooking up in the quiet winter months.

“It’s sort of a call for people to come out and sort of see when artisans and businesses owners have been hunkered down,” Haun said. “I love to think about the Artisan Trail spring event as this is what happens when you throw the windows open and you can let the cool breezes in and show everybody what you’ve been working on.”

French also discussed other online tools to bring in more tourists.

To help handle hotel and motel bookings, the council’s website uses the online booking service JackRabbit to handle lodging sales directly. Rather than a service like Booking.com that charges fees per transaction, French said the council pays an annual subscription fee to JackRabbit and all transactions cost the customers and lodging companies no additional fees.

Last year, nearly 1,500 people interacted with the system, the council reported, and 171 transactions were completed with the tool.