The natural beauty of Virginia’s diverse landscapes is a major quality-of-life factor for commonwealth residents and a strong draw for tourists. In 2008, Virginia’s 35 state parks alone welcomed more than 7.25 million visitors with an estimated economic impact of nearly $170 million dollars. (Fun fact #1: Virginia State park trails stretch more than 500 miles.)
When you add Virginia’s National Parks, site, and trails and privately owned natural assets such as Luray Caverns and Natural Bridge, our natural wonders are important economic engines. (Fun Fact #2: The Blue Ridge Parkway turns 75in 2010. This is a big co-marketing and partnership opportunity for communities surrounding the parkway.)
Touring Virginia’s historic downtowns, staying at local B&B’s, visiting farmer’s markets, and taking part in local festivals are all perfectly complementary activities for travelers making the most of the state’s scenic and recreational assets. (Fun Fact #3: If all this makes you want to shut down your computer and go jump in a Virginia State Park lake, you might be an Ecothusiast. Explore your Virginia Tourism Passionality at virginia.org.)
Cooperative marketing, programming, and wayfinding opportunities can strengthen the ties between recreational tourism sites and their surrounding communities. Of course, this requires a strong, collaborative relationship among parks, their nonprofit supporter groups, and Main Street efforts. Working together to create packaged experiences that can round out a visitor’s trip could be well worth the investment. And since it works both ways, how is your community working as stewards of your natural assets? (Fun Fact #4: With a few simple clicks, you can plant a tree in a Virginia State Park with the help of beverage company Odwalla.)
Let Virginia Main Street know about your collaborative partnerships by contacting: Douglas.Jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov or calling (276) 780-3244, and we’ll share your best practices in an upcoming blog entry or Main Street Monitor article.