Bedford County leaders seek new direction for tourism efforts

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) Bedford County has money to spend on tourism and county leaders are trying to find the best way to use those funds.

Tourism dollars have been in Bedford County's budget all along, but money was freed up earlier this year when the county lost its tourism director. Instead of filling the position right away, county leaders are looking at other options.

Thousands of visitors come to Bedford attractions like the National D-Day Memorial every year, but leaders in the tourism industry believe even more would show up if the landmark and other cultural assets in Bedford were marketed to a wider audience.

"We need someone who can help promote, promote, promote," said Jeffrey Nichols, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest.

The attraction has gained additional tourists over the years, thanks to marketing efforts designed by Bedford County's tourism director.

"The key to any tourism program from our perspective is driving people into this area," Nichols told WDBJ7.

Bedford County lost its tourism director in June, but the position won't be filled immediately. Instead, county leaders are thinking about spending $50,000 to $75,000 to develop a marketing strategy for tourism.

"The tourism program has been around for a while and is in need of some reevaluation for the direction that we're going," explained Reid Wodicka, Bedford's assistant county administrator.

Whatever direction they take, leaders of the county's tourist attractions hope the new plan will lead to wider recognition of what Bedford County has to offer.

"Tourism is a huge economic driver for Central Virginia, so having all of the support we can get to help promote the sites is critical," Nichols said.

County staff is drawing up a request for proposals from companies that can develop a marketing strategy for the county. The board of supervisors will decide whether to advertise that request at its meeting September 12.

There are no formal plans right now to fill the tourism director position, but some county leaders have expressed that they would like to fill the job after they come up with a long-term strategy.