3 Ways to identify and capitalize on your town’s greatest tourism assets


Development Specialist
Virginia Tourism Corporation
Phone: (276) 322-2044
Email: rrose@virginia.org



What do you find a lot of mayors in small towns don’t know?
Well there are a number of services through various agencies state, federal, local agencies and from the tourism standpoint specifically, we have a number of services. We’re well known for our marketing services, we’re well known for promoting the state as a tourism destination and our ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ brand, but what I’ve found is that when I always associated with Economic Development and job creation, our partnership marketing development division really does focus on that and we have services that are meant to work with localities, with towns, with elected officials and a lot of those are development focused.

How can you help small towns?
Well there are a number of ways we can help small towns. Obviously, marketing is a key part of what we do, so we want to help them market their town as a destination, to attract visitors and again. That’s something that I think we’re well known for. But specifically from a development standpoint, an economic development standpoint, we have a number of services. One that our towns most often contact us for is planning assistance and technical assistance.

We help towns whether we’re involved and at the planning table or we’re facilitating the planning. We can help towns in that way. A number of towns and a number of localities we’ve helped develop plans for, that have been adopted by their councils, that are being implemented, and what we are excited about, are these are efforts that are being done in a strategic way that provide results that they can see, that are measurable, that are achievable. And we help in facilitating those plans. That’s just one way we help. We have a number of other services, including the entrepreneurship and business development services we provide and we work in partnership with other agencies on.

So, from working one on one with entrepreneurs in those towns to developing workshops and implementing workshops in towns that attract entrepreneurs and help them with planning, that help them with marketing, that help them with social media. Just various ways that we can help, from one on one assistance with the entrepreneurs in the mayors towns, to workshops that attract entrepreneurs and let them know about opportunities that may be in their towns – we try to be a partner in that way.

So if a mayor contacts you, you will actually help them write a marketing plan based on bringing tourism to their towns?
If we’re contacted by town or by mayor, we certainly help them develop a marketing plan to promote their town as a tourism destination. So we can help from the marketing standpoint, but we also can help from the development standpoint. If they are interested in developing a plan that may assist with actual development of businesses in their town, we can help with that, as well. Now we do that in partnership with a lot of other key partners that have resources just like we do, but that’s one key thing or service that we can do with a mayor that I think is very beneficial. The one thing that I’m excited about is that we have beyond just technical assistance, there are programs that mayors may be interested in that are tourism focused. From the marketing standpoint, we have a marketing leverage program that allows the towns to leverage their marketing dollars, request matching funds for us for a tourism marketing campaign that will help attract visitors. Tourism is an instant revenue generator for that town and marketing is one way to make that happen.

Through a marketing campaign, the mayors may be able to work with us and the town officials to have a campaign that brings instant revenue to a community that very season, that summer, that fall, whatever the campaign may be shaped as it may help pretty quickly, so we’re pretty excited about that. But long term, we have other programs and this is not only Virginia Tourism Corporation, but the Commonwealth of Virginia has programs that may be appealing to a town. For example, towns have the ability to create tourism zones – specific zones where they can encourage and facilitate development of tourism product in a section of a town, a block of the town, or the entire town.

The towns have the ability to design that tourism zone to attract artisan businesses, to attract culinary-type businesses. For example, wineries, etc. So this is all up to the town and we can certainly help with that. And taking that a step further, there is a tourism development financing program that is really meant for the entrepreneur, the business, or the developer. What we’ve found is that there is a number of developers that are able to get 70-80% of their funding for a project, for a hotel project, for a winery, or for a downtown restaurant, but they still need those final funds needed, that last 20%. So this fund is specifically designed to help with that last 20% of funding through a partnership that would include the locality or town, the state of Virginia, and the developer. So there are tools that can be used from a tourism development standpoint and we certainly want to work with those mayors and let them know about those tools and in many cases, sort of facilitate the process to actually implement the programs or use of the tools.

How realistic is for every single town to go after a movie?
Well, I’m not a film expert. Our Virginia film office is certainly the starting point in regards to a community or town that would really like to attract a movie or a major motion picture filming to the town. With that said, you know, what I’ve seen is that there are various levels of films being made in Virginia and across America. From independent films to major motion pictures, so there are various opportunities. The one thing that we recommend is that towns and specifically the mayors if there is an interest in attracting a film to the town, one form relationship with our film office, the Virginia Film office and there will be recommendations by our film office that will help them prepare and be seriously considered when there is a scout or when there is a film possibility in their community. Obviously having the information that our film office needs, knowing where locations could feasibly happen for a film, making sure there are resources, film resources. For example, when a film comes to a community, there are needs for various services, from caterers, sometimes set design, painters, etc.

So communities that really want to be proactive and seriously be considered probably need to determine those resources ahead of time and obviously when there is an opportunity, if they’re prepared, they’re ready to go, it certainly sets them above those communities that have not done that prep work.

Will someone from the film office be willing to actually go and visit the town?
The Virginia film office and the Virginia Tourism Corporation are certainly aligned and one great example I’ll share is Big Stone Gap, Virginia and the movie that’s there. The town management there, the leaders there have worked with the Virginia Tourism Corporation and they’re working with the Virginia film office and what they’re doing is partnering with us to develop a marketing campaign that will certainly promote Big Stone Gap as a destination, not only once that film is released, but for years to come, so there’s a strategic effort underway in partnership with the film office and with Virginia Tourism Corporation to capitalize on that opportunity, so mayors can work with Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia film office and in many cases, we will have a field contact, a development specialist such as myself that would work as a liaison to the film office and of course to the town to hopefully capitalize on that. It’s important to note, though, that we really need to see the commitment from the town, so this needs to be a commitment from the mayors to follow through with this, to be a partner, to come to the table and be equal with us and devote the time and the commitment we need to make those happen.

So are you out on the road a lot or are you in your office a lot?
We have development specialists in rural areas throughout Virginia, so most small towns in Virginia have a field specialist such as myself, that can work with them one on one that can be a connection for them to all our services at Virginia Tourism Corporation and Virginia field office. So yes, we’re out throughout Virginia working one on one with towns. Our office is in our cars and in the towns in Virginia and we’re really excited about that. So, we are a division that is on the road, in the communities, and working one on one with towns and mayors would certainly be a part of that, we love to work with our mayors.

If a mayor wanted to contact you directly, what’s your email and information?
If a mayor would like more information about the Virginia Tourism Corporation, please contact me at 276-322-2044 or my email address is rrose@virginia.org.