Tourism brings millions to Virginia Shore economy

EASTERN SHORE, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- The Eastern Shore is Virginia's second fastest growing region for tourism, an industry that in 2015 brought $7 million in local tax revenue to the area.

Kerry Allison, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, updated the Accomack County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday on how tourism affects the Shore economy.

"We really are concentrating on growing our shoulder season" — that's the autumn months — "...and we're starting to eye the winter market," Allison told the board.

The organization's marketing plan includes a focus on developing brand awareness of the Eastern Shore among a younger demographic, she said.

Additionally, the Shore is included in state initiatives including the Oyster Trail and the Artisan Trail, as well as regional efforts like the Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance.

Visitors to the Eastern Shore of Virginia spent more than $261 million during the year — almost $716,000 a day. Visitor spending on items including food, lodging, transportation, purchases, entertainment and recreation increased 25 percent in the past five years,

Tourism jobs in the region increased by 12 percent between 2010 and 2015, with the payroll increasing 23 percent, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Around 2,900 jobs in the region were directly travel-related in 2015, up from less than 2,600 in 2010.

Requests for the commission's annual travel guide also were up 665 percent last year from the request level in 2011, Allison said. Additionally, views of the online travel guide were up 998 percent in the same period, and website visits to esvatourism.org increased 963 percent, now totaling more than 200,000 a year.

In 2016, 76 percent of visitors to the website were new.

The commission also has had a growing presence on Facebook, with the number of likes to its page up 2,597 percent in the past four years, with 21,000 followers now. Its Instagram has 1,328 followers.

The commission also introduced a new feature story blog in July 2015.

Additionally, the organization is doing strategic planning to enhance tourism on the Shore, including on Chincoteague, Allison said.

"We want more partners to work together. It's happening already across the whole Eastern Shore, and specifically, we're having strategic planning on Chincoteague and there's much more industry integration up there. The owners are starting to talk to one another, figuring how they can pair up ," she said.

"We are very excited about what's going on in Accomack County," Allison told the board, noting the recent success with attracting tourists to oyster roasts held from September to November in several Eastern Shore towns, including Saxis and Exmore among others.

"We have a lot going on in Saxis. We took 40 people out there last year" for activities including a feast, duck carving demonstration and a visit to the town museum, Allison said, adding, "Everybody loved it."

Allison said more financial resources are needed to address the growing tourism market.

"We need to grow the budget; we have a tiny budget for such a rapidly growing market," she said.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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