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A regional approach to attracting tourism

Individual localities will have a much stronger impact on drawing tourists by working together as a region, said Chris Ingram, Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator for Middlesex County.

A tourism plan has been developed that includes a regional approach to attracting tourists. Two months ago Ingram was able to get the State Tourism Department to facilitate the first individual county tourism plan development meetings for Middlesex County.

“This is the first time an individual county in the area has had this professional support from the state,” said Ingram. The development meetings solicited information from a broad array of community leaders to identify assets and areas for improvement, past tourism efforts, as well as ideas for planning and visioning.

The information gathered in the two all-day planning meetings is being drafted into a tourism plan for Middlesex County. The Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Council met on Wednesday, April 16, to discuss this draft plan and suggest revisions prior to it being formally presented to the community for review.

A regional approach to tourism is not a new concept. Southwest Virginia started a large regional partnership that includes 19 counties and 4 cities (http://www.myswva.org). Likewise, Fredericksburg joined Stafford and Spotsylvania counties to market themselves as http://www.visitfred.com, and most recently Hampton Roads has decided to rebrand themselves as “Coastal Virginia” (http://www.visitcoastalvirginia.com). “All of these partnerships illustrate an industry understanding that a cooperative voice is much louder than an individual one.”

Middlesex’s $25,000 contribution will be combined with $35,000 from the Town of Kilmarnock. Lancaster County is still in it budget process and may make a tourism allocation, noted Ingram. “The plan is to maximize our impact with the tourism market while making the most of limited funds.”

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 04.16.2014

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