Local Leaders Rally for 2015 Tourism Season

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Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny delivers remarks at Friday's 2015 tourism rally. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)
Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny delivers remarks at Friday’s 2015 tourism rally. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

Key figures from the greater Williamsburg area’s tourist economy were out in force Friday at New Town’s Legacy Hall to begin the 2015 tourism season and share the importance of tourism to the area’s economy.

Speakers from the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, the Virginia Tourism Corporation and local businesses all took to a podium to tell the gathered crowd why tourism was important and how it helped their businesses to thrive.

The facts and figures they shared — like the 11,227 jobs in the Williamsburg area tourism is estimated to support, the $1.1 billion in total expenditures by tourists in the area in 2013 and the more than $41 million in local taxes raised by tourism spending — coalesced into a portrait of how reliant greater Williamsburg is upon a healthy tourism economy.

For 2015, the Alliance and the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee have planned several new programs and initiatives to draw more people to the area.

“If you want different results, you have to do different things,” said Alliance board of directors president and Busch Gardens Park President Carl Lum, repeating a mantra he often tells his employees at the James City County theme park. “Clearly we’ve done a lot of that, but we have a lot more to do.”

From left to right: mascots from Great American Cookie, Great Wolf Lodge, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt and Whitley's Peanut Factory pose for a photo at Friday's tourism rally. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)
From left to right: mascots from Great American Cookie, Great Wolf Lodge, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Whitley’s Peanut Factory pose for a photo at Friday’s tourism rally. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

He cited the recent rebranding of the area as a place where guests have the freedom to be curious, have fun and relax, as well as the package of new advertising now underway as evidence the greater Williamsburg area is trying new things to improve the health of the tourism economy.

The Alliance is also behind a new fall Harvest Celebration it hopes will bring people to the area for four days of food and alcohol-themed events and the appearance of an adventure rally web series in September.

Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny said the state has many activities for tourists to enjoy and tourism has been creating jobs across Virginia.

“This region is a big part of telling that story,” she said.

VTC is the state’s official tourism office. It is responsible for the Virginia is for Lovers campaign, which the Alliance took last year to create the LoveWMBG campaign.

LoveWMBG is a branding message the Alliance uses to try to gin up interest in the area. It was introduced at the 2014 tourism rally. The campaign is simple: Use LoveWMBG in Twitter hashtags and around town to get people talking about the Williamsburg area.

“It’s a curiosity,” Alliance President and CEO Karen Riordan said of LoveWMBG, noting it serves as a way to get branding about the area out to potential visitors. She said she took a trip to New York City earlier this week to meet with travel writers who could write about the area and that a few of them used #LoveWMBG in tweets.