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The Roanoke Valley’s new plan is to market itself as a weekend getaway destination.
The Roanoke Times | File
Local officials hope to see more Virginia and North Carolina tourists visiting the Mill Mountain Star and other local sites.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Energized with a new brand and funding formula, the area’s tourism bureau plans to push the Roanoke Valley as a mini-vacation spot for people across Virginia and North Carolina.
That’s the first way to get the most people soonest, said Landon Howard, president of the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The pitch is what Howard calls “a metro mountains mix,” located nearer to many North Carolina residents and to all Virginians than the big draw at Asheville, N.C.
That’s why the area’s new brand is “Virginia’s Blue Ridge,” Howard said, noting that the Blue Ridge Parkway is a world-renowned attraction.
“When people ask where you’re from and you say ‘Roanoke,’ they don’t know where that is,” Howard said. “When you say it’s in the Western Virginia mountains, the Blue Ridge, they say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a beautiful place.’ ”
The mini-vacation tack was suggested by a research effort that among other things looked at more than 25,000 hotel registrations to see who already comes to the area. It makes sense, too, at a time when many people find it hard to take long vacations, but are eager for a long weekend away from home, he said.
The aim, he said, is to find people “who will say, ‘We’ve never gone before, perhaps we’ll try.’ ”
The bureau is also hoping to develop theme-oriented loop trails — including day trips for people interested in wineries, music or the outdoors — to lure people who might otherwise zoom past on Interstate 81.
The bureau can afford a more intensive and focused marketing push because Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem have agreed on a funding formula that guarantees it a share of their hotel tax collections. As part of the agreement, Roanoke County won General Assembly permission to raise its hotel tax.
Three-eighths of the two cities’ 8 percent hotel tax and three-sevenths of the county’s 7 percent tax will go to the bureau.
The new funding formula should boost the bureau’s budget from $1.3 million this year to $2.3 million next year. That’s still far below the $6.4 million that Asheville will spend marketing its similar mountains-and-city pitch.
The bureau estimates that some 7,600 jobs in the area, with a payroll of $138 million, are linked to visitors. Local governments collect $5.1 million a year in hotel taxes.
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