Growing. Boring. Crime. Home.
Those are the four words that most likely come to mind among residents to describe Danville, according to a regional tourism branding survey.
“You see some positive and not-so-positive words in there,” Eddy Alexander President and Chief Strategist Jennifer Eddy said during a presentation of the results Thursday morning at the Danville Science Center.
The survey was conducted by Eddy Alexander, a marketing and growth strategy advisory firm in Roanoke.
More than 2,000 residents in Danville and Pittsylvania County responded to the survey that focused on the two localities. Survey questions included multiple choice, rankings and open-response.
The firm recruited respondents through direct mail notifications, press releases and media announcements, digital advertising, social media posts and other means.
Most of the 2,072 respondents participated in the survey online (99.8%), while a small number took part in person (0.19%).
The results of the survey were presented Thursday morning in the dome of the Danville Science Center.
“It gave us a lot of insight into the community,” Eddy told about 30 people who attended the presentation projected up into the dome.
Other words most survey respondents used to describe Danville were “friendly,” “poor,” “improving,” “small” and “river,” among many other descriptors.
Respondents also thought of “casino,” “history,” “progressive” and “potential.”
“A good mix of thoughts, but this tells us where we need to focus in terms of having a positive impact on the community,” Eddy said.
The goal of the survey was to aid in developing a regional tourism brand and marketing program. While not specifically mentioned, a new casino opening in Danville in 2024 is expected to bring in about 2 million visitors annually, dramatically boosting the region’s tourism industry.
The survey also asked respondents what their out-of-town guests say about Danville. Those guests used words such as “cute,” “crime/poverty/bad crime,” “casinos,” “changing/changing for the better,” “friendly,” “river trail/River District/river,” “nice/nice town,” “quaint,” “quiet” and “small/small town.”
Respondents in the Dan River Region also said their out-of-town guests expressed the most interest in seeing breweries, the Dan River, the River District, the Riverwalk trail, the Danville Science Center, downtown, family-friendly activities, historical sites, places and homes, museums, restaurants, Smith Mountain Lake, VIR and restaurants.
They also said they hoped a new brand identity for the region would capture Danville’s and Pittsylvania County’s “history,” “beauty,” “potential” and “growth.”
Information gathered during the survey process will help shape the region’s “tourism story” for years to come, a news release stated.
“We’re building on a new tourism program,” Danville and Pittsylvania County Tourism Manager Lisa Meriwether told the Danville Register & Bee after the presentation. “This tourism program is going to be reflective of the feelings, thoughts and … the backgrounds of both residents in the city and county.”
The Danville Office of Economic Development & Tourism is the official destination marketing organization for the city of Danville and Pittsylvania County.
Participants also described Danville’s atmosphere mostly as “friendly,” “laid-back” and “boring,” according to the survey. Other words used included “busy,” “peaceful,” “depressed,” “welcoming,” “relaxed,” “casual,” “scary” and “dull.”
Danville could be made into a more appealing destination by adding more attractions, entertainment, shopping options and events, and also by cleaning up, improving public safety, and promoting and advertising itself, according to survey participants.
As for Pittsylvania County, most respondents thought of the words “country,” “rural,” “peaceful,” “boring,” “beautiful,” “large” and “home.”
Out-of-town visitors, according to respondents, described the county as “beautiful” “green,” and said there was nothing to do there, Eddy said.
“Everything is so far apart but it’s a beautiful drive to get there,” was one quote mentioned in the survey about the county.
Pittsylvania’s atmosphere was most described as “laid-back,” “rural,” “friendly,” “country,” “welcoming” and “relaxing.”
The county could be improved with the addition of more attractions and entertainment, being more welcoming and better internet access, according to the survey results.
Eddy said the region has a lot of strengths.
“You have a lot of things going for you,” she said. “For a community of this size, we were really impressed with the number of museums, the number of different kinds of athletic opportunities. You’ve got ODAC [Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex], with your competitive horse sports and cattle events. But you also have VIR, you have the science museum, a lot of different kinds of things going on.”
There is also a lot of affordability in the region, a lot of scenic beauty and friendly citizens, she added.
However, there is a little bit of a lack of awareness of the region’s assets among citizens, Eddy said.
“It wasn’t that there really isn’t things to see and do when we looked comparative to other communities of your size,” she said. “You actually have quite a bit, but when you asked folks about what you have, there was kind of a ‘there’s not much to do’ attitude that you saw reflected in the data.”
Despite a drop in violent crime in recent years in Danville, there is a perception that safety is still a concern, she said.
There is also a lack of knowledge of tourism and what it can do for the community, Eddy said. There is also “a little bit of a scarcity mindset” and a fear of change, she added.
“People being concerned about competition,” she said. “We like to go into a community and see a sense of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ but there’s a little bit of maybe fear of change.”
A second presentation was scheduled to be held Thursday evening at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex in Chatham.
Feedback provided during two presentations of the survey results will also be carefully considered in the development of the region’s upcoming tourism master plan, branding and promotional efforts, the release stated.