Region sees bump in 2016 tourism revenue

Page News and Courier The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

HARRISONBURG — New marketing initiatives and the opening of new businesses contributed to a nearly 5 percent rise in average tourism revenue in four Valley counties and Harrisonburg in 2016.

Shenandoah County reaped $213 million in tourism dollars during the 2016 calendar year, according to a report released by the Virginia Tourism Corp. earlier this month. Rockingham County followed close behind with $210 million, the report said.

Page County collected $67 million from tourism in 2016, a 5.4 percent bump from the $63 million it collected in 2014 and 2015. Before that, the county received $61 million in 2012 and 2013.

Shenandoah County’s revenue marks an increase of almost 5 percent from its 2015 amount of $203 million. Rockingham County’s revenue rose 6.6 percent from almost $198 million in 2015.

The state report ranks Shenandoah County 23rd and Rockingham County 24th out of 133 counties and cities in the amount of tourism revenue collected. Statewide, tourists spent $24 billion in 2016.

Warren County reaped $140 million, a 3 percent increase from $136 million the previous year, while Harrisonburg collected $118 million, up 4 percent from $114 million in 2015.

They rank 32nd and 40th in tourism revenue, respectively, according to the VTC report.

The VTC report ranked Page County 58th in tourism revenue.

Each locality’s revenue is taken from hotel occupancy rates and receipts from restaurants and tourist attractions, according to Jenna French, Shenandoah County’s director of tourism and business development.

Only receipts collected from visitors traveling more than 50 miles were counted toward tourism revenue totals, she said.

French attributed Shenandoah County’s tourism jump to the opening of three new breweries and wineries in 2016, as well as it co-hosting the Bike Virginia tour with Rockingham County in June of that year, during which 1,500 visitors stayed in Woodstock for three days.

New marketing initiatives aided by a $50,000 VTC grant also helped raise Shenandoah County’s profile, French said.

"We started advertising with Southern Living [magazine] in September 2016, and we got 700,000 leads that month alone," she said.

Page County’s revenue bump can be partially attributed to the opening of Castle Vineyards and the Hawksbill Brewing Co. in the Luray area in 2016, according to Gina Hilliard, president of the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce.

A growing reputation as an "outdoor hub" also helped direct more tourists to Page, Hilliard said.

"We have the Shenandoah National Park, Luray Caverns and the Shenandoah River," she said. "We have festivals here in [Luray], a triathlon, a half-marathon and bike races."

Another Page County draw is its status as "The Cabin Capital of Virginia," with 400 to 500 properties available for rent, Hilliard said.

"We are the perfect setting for getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life," she said.

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