Tourism Benefits Virginia Main Streets

Festival in South Boston. Photo credit: David Hungate

Governor Bob McDonnell recently announced that visitors to Virginia generated $20.4 billion in revenue in 2011, an 8 percent increase from 2010. In 2011, tourism in Virginia supported 207,000 jobs, an increase of nearly 2 percent in employment, and provided more than $1.32 billion in state and local taxes. 

Virginia’s Main Streets are popular tourist destinations for their fabulous historic architecture, exceptional dining, locally-produced artisan crafted goods and great entertainment and celebrations. These communities are effectively incorporating a category of tourism called cultural heritage tourism, traveling that is done with the goal of experiencing places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of a community, as an economic development strategy.

As demonstrated in the governor’s announcement, tourism is a powerful economic development tool. Tourism creates jobs, provides new business opportunities and strengthens local economies. When cultural heritage tourism development is done right, it helps to protect our nation’s natural and cultural treasures and improves the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

 The National Trust for Historic Preservation suggests five guiding principles for sustainable cultural heritage tourism.

  1.  Collaborate – Successful cultural heritage tourism programs bring together partners who may not have worked together in the past.
  2. Find the fit – Successful programs are also realistic, based on the talents of specific people, as well as on specific attractions, accommodations and sources of support and enthusiasm.
  3. Make cultural heritage sites come alive – The human drama of history is what visitors want to discover, not just names and dates. Make the message creative and exciting. 
  4. Focus on quality and authenticity – The story of the authentic contributions previous generations have made to the history and culture of where you live is the one that will interest visitors because that is what distinguishes your area from every other place on earth. 
  5. Preserve and protect – When your historic and cultural assets are at the heart of your plans to develop tourism, it is essential to protect them for the long term. By protecting the buildings, landscape or special places and qualities that attract visitors, you safeguard the future.

More information on sustainable cultural heritage tourism is available here. Generate a report detailing the impact of tourism on your community here.