Southwest VA tourism rebounding close to 2019 levels

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 4:11 PM EDT
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WYTHEVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The tourism industry took a hit during the pandemic, but in southwest Virginia, the industry is rebuilding stronger than you might think.

According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, southwest Virginia tourism numbers are only 7% lower than 2019.

“For the past 24 months, it’s really been inspiring the traveler to come back, but now we’re actually hosting and having events and we’re back in person 100%,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Around 180 members of the tourism industry met in Wytheville August 22, to discuss trends and how to reach new visitors at the Reignite Tourism Summit.

“We are not a major metropolitan area, so working together, partnering across geographic borders, makes all of our marketing stronger and it gives us the opportunity to welcome more travelers to our area,” Visit Wytheville’s Rosa Lee Jude said.

McClenny says funding from the American Rescue Plan Act will play a big role helping the tourism field fully recover.

“Many of the localities, counties, towns and cities in southwest Virginia have developed new marketing ideas and campaigns to utilize those funds to reach travelers who they never could afford to talk to before,” she said.

But in order to attract new travelers, they have know about a destination’s offerings.

“With digital marketing, we’re talking about platforms like TikTok, and Instagram and Pinterest, so you really can show off photographs, you can really show the product, you can really make an appeal in a very short clip of say, eight to 10 seconds,” she said.