“Since Danville and Pittsylvania County are relatively new on the destination marketing scene, many potential visitors have been curious about all that is happening here, and we are gaining attention as a desirable tourism destination,” she said. “Visitors are coming to check out our growing foodie scene, enjoy our natural assets such as our trails, waterways and attractions such as the Danville Science Center, Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History and national draws such as the Virginia International Raceway.”
Tourism is increasing statewide, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp.’s visitor spending report.
The corporation’s mission is to “expand domestic and international in-bound travel and motion picture production to generate revenue and employment in Virginia,” according to its website.
The state saw its greatest economic impact from tourism in six years, with $30.3 billion reported for 2022. That figure exceeded 2019 pre-COVID levels by 4.4%.
Danville has been preparing for an influx of visitors to the area. In late spring this year, the city published its first ever regional tourism master plan and launched the Visit SoSi tourism branding.
The master plan “was essential to help guide a process that would allow us to prioritize anchor initiatives necessary to achieve the desired results we seek, more visitors staying longer, spending more money,” Meriwether said.
“These initiatives include increasing marketing efforts, production development, destination development and positioning our community as a leading regional destination,” she said.
Since starting the Visit SoSi tourism program in May, the tourism office has distributed more than 50,000 new Visit SoSi visitor guides to the state’s dozen welcome centers and to 65 visitor information centers across the commonwealth, Meriwether said.
“We have conducted more than 150 tourism stakeholder visits to hand out supplies of out new visitor guides and regional maps so their customers will have access to a comprehensive guide on all there is to see and do in the region,” she said.
Also, the tourism office has conducted a dozen customer service and tourism insider workshops since May for hotel, restaurant, attractions and retail- and visitor-oriented businesses in the region to help them better understand visitors’ needs and expectations, Meriwether said.
The workshops have also taught them how to use new tourism program resources to promote the region, she said.
In addition, “Since April, we have conducted multiple trainings with our tourism stakeholders on how to use our new tourism website software to add business listings, images and events in preparation of the launch of our new www.VisitSoSi.com tourism website in December,” she said.
Meriwether refers to the tourism master plan every day.“Many of the first-term priorities outlined in the plan have either been fully executed or are well underway,” she said.
The tourism industry included 1,445 jobs in the region in 2022, up by 9% from 1,328 jobs in 2021. It generated $39.4 million in labor income — a 15% increase from the previous year.
It resulted in $7.5 million in local tax collections in the Dan River Region in 2022, up from $6.7 million in 2021, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.