The week of May 7 – 13 has been designated as National Tourism Week, with many localities having rallies and securing proclamations and resolutions from local governments.
The Craig County Tourism Commission has no formal observance planned but will share information taken from a written report to the Craig County Board of Supervisors at their April 6 meeting, by Ann G. Harrell, Chair of the Craig County Tourism Commission.
The Craig County Tourism Commission is presently composed of the following members: Ann G. Harrell, Chairman; Diane Givens, Vice Chairman; Peter French, Secretary; Clay Goodman, ex-officio member; Andy Allen, Erica Jones, Geoff Boyer, Hogan Dellinger, Jacob Dellinger, Jennifer Lovejoy, Martha Dillard, Phil Spence and Sue Bostic, members. All members are volunteers.
Our budget for FY16-17 was $8,055. The major portion of the budget was designated for advertising/promotion/membership:
- VA Travel Guide $4,300.
- VA’s Western Highlands – membership 2,200.
- Visit VA’s Blue Ridge (Roanoke) – affiliation 820.
- Business Review supplement to 6 local papers – ad 300.
- VA Highway Information – maps in 3 Welcome Centers 360.
- County Map – 10,000 copies 8,310.
The VA Travel Guide is a publication of the Virginia Travel Corporation (VTC); the $4,300 pays for our ad in this widely-distributed guide (page 149 of the 2017 edition). We also have a free presence on their web site (Virginia.org) where we promote events and businesses in the county. We are grateful to the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) for their support of the Tourism Commission, by donating $2,150 of the VTC’s fee.
We have the opportunity to attend numerous VTC functions held around the state. Due to our budget restrictions, we didn’t attend the VA1 regional meeting at Hotel Roanoke, but Ann Harrell did attend their Digital Workshop. VTC personnel are available to us via email and telephone for help with any tourism questions.
In January 2016, the VTC announced the formation of the new Virginia Mountains region. The region includes Virginia’s Western Highlands (including the Counties of Alleghany, Bath, Craig, Highland and Covington City), Virginia’s Blue Ridge (including the Counties of Botetourt, Franklin and Roanoke along with the Cities of Roanoke and Salem) and Bedford County. This designation better identifies the area and describes what we have to offer to visitors. Craig was formerly in the Shenandoah Valley region!
VA’s Western Highlands (VWH) is a partnership comprised of the counties of Alleghany, Bath, Craig and Highland. Being a member of this group since 2007 has given Craig County promotional opportunities that we otherwise could not afford. These include space on their website (vawesternhighlands.com) and their Facebook page (Virginia’s Western Highlands), a new Trail Guide coming later this year, possibly a Bird/Wildflower Guide, and an article about Craig County in the Summer 2016 edition of Shenandoah Valley & Beyond, a travel guide distributed along I-81 and elsewhere. Craig County was highlighted in the Spring 2017 edition (http://shenandoahvalleyguide.com/travelguide.html) and will be mentioned in the upcoming Summer edition.
Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge was formerly known as the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and is comprised of the cities of Roanoke and Salem and the counties of Roanoke, Franklin and Botetourt. Craig County has a listing in their travel guide and in other advertising venues.
The Tourism Commission does a limited amount of local print advertising due to the high cost. We had half-page ads in the July 2016 and February 2017 Business Review supplement to the New Castle Record and five sister publications, at a total cost of $300. We feel this gets our name before local citizens as well as many in the region.
We have our maps in three Welcome Centers – Lambsburg on I-77N near the VA/NC line, Bristol on I-81N near the VA/TN border and Covington on I-64E near the VA/WV line. There are 12 Welcome Centers around the state and there is a cost of $120 each to display materials. We have chosen the three that we think have the most potential of attracting visitors to Craig County.
In April 2016, we conducted a tour of Craig County for 16 representatives of several of the Welcome Centers. This was the result of a request from them, to allow them to become familiar with our county and all that we have to offer visitors. Our Tourism Committee made all the arrangements for the tour, including transportation, lunch at The Swinging Bridge Restaurant and tours of Wilderness Adventure, the Sublett House across from Joe’s Trees, and downtown New Castle.
The tour started with a walking tour of downtown New Castle including several businesses, the banks, Courthouse and the Old Brick Hotel. Then on down Rt. 615 to a guided tour of Wilderness Adventure’s main lodge. From there, we drove to Fenwick Mines for a rainy view of the picnic area, the waterfall and the trail. Back to New Castle and over to Paint Bank for lunch at The Swinging Bridge Restaurant and browsing in the General Store and the upstairs shop, plus a tour of the restored caboose. Back to New Castle to view the lodging at Big Pine Trout Farm and onto Rt. 42 to the Sublett House for a tour of the lodging facilities there. Some of the folks left us at this point since they were going South on I-81. The remainder traveled back to New Castle, with a stop at the lookout above New Castle. As we stepped out of our vehicles, we saw a beautiful rainbow over New Castle. We told our visitors that we had arranged that just for them!
The tour participants were delighted with our county and stated that we had many of the features that visitors are looking for – mountains, beautiful views, outdoor recreation, a waterfall, hiking trails, small towns, solitude, etc.
The main accomplishment for the Tourism Commission for 2016 was the updating and printing of the County Map. 10,000 maps were first purchased in 2013 and our supply had been depleted. With much technical assistance from the staff of Roanoke-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC), our volunteer members spent many hours making improvements and updates to what we thought was a great road map and guide to the attractions and businesses in the county. The demand for these maps has increased greatly, especially since our listing in the VA Travel Guide has been expanded.
Our maps are displayed in the three Welcome Centers mentioned above, as well as Visitor Centers in New Castle, Roanoke, Salem, Vinton and Covington, along with numerous restaurants, antique stores and other businesses in outlying areas. Our tourism partners in the region also have a supply of the maps. Businesses with an ad on the map are given maps to distribute to their customers. Tourism Commission members carry maps with them & offer them to business owners and others they meet in their daily travels. We will be happy to give each Board member a supply of the maps for their use in promoting Craig County.
These maps were paid for with the sale of map ads, funds carried over from the FY 2015-16 budget and funds from the FY 2016-17 budget.
An ongoing activity of the Commission is the promotion of businesses, the Barn Quilt Trail, festivals and other events in the county. We accomplish this by including information in our print ads, on our County website (craigcountyva.gov) and our Facebook page (Visit Craig County, VA) and through our partnership with other tourism agencies. Our members have found that word-of-mouth promotion is effective and economical!
The Tourism Commission had a busy and fruitful year in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. We will continue our efforts to attract more visitors to our county, with the expectation of increasing the income of our local businesses. We will continue to urge visitors to respect our citizens, our rural lifestyle and our natural resources. The Tourism Commission is challenged by having no paid staff, but we are proud of what we have accomplished with all volunteer members and limited funds. Our members love Craig County and all that we have here and we “shout it from the rooftops”!
Our work for the remainder of 2017 will also include the LOVEworks project; working with VWH to develop a Dark Sky area, the Hiking Trails brochure and a Bird/Wildflowers brochure, and providing promotional materials and information for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally in Roanoke (2,000 to 3,000 motorcyclists expected). We have already begun work on a Market Leverage Program grant through the Virginia Travel Corporation. If a grant is secured, funds would be used to increase our promotion of the county, possibly through development of a video, expansion of our website, or development of a marketing plan.
The Craig County Tourism Commission welcomes comments and questions from the members of the Board of Supervisors. Our meetings are open to the public. We do not have a set schedule although we usually meet monthly. For meeting dates and other concerns, you may contact the Chairman, Ann Harrell, at (540) 864-5913 or [email protected]
-Submitted by Ann G. Harrell, Chairman
Craig County Tourism Commission