Visitor center manager helping to carry out Dan River Region’s vision for tourism

Lisa Greer brings more than 20 years of experience in hospitality, retail and marketing to her job as manager of the Danville Visitor Center.

Greer, who started in the position April 3, is passionate about every aspect of her job.

“I love tourism, I love hospitality, I love the city, I love the county,” she said during an interview in the visitor center lobby Monday afternoon.

She gets to interact with travelers passing through the area and discover for herself where they are going and what they want to see.

“I love talking to people,” Greer said. “I love greeting people and finding out what their traveling goals are.”

Greer comes to the visitor center with a background in hotel management. She worked for 11 years on and off for Daly Seven, which owns hotels in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. She also worked a decade in retail and marketing.

People who believe no one from outside the region comes to visit Danville, think again. More than 100 people came into the visitor center lobby Saturday and engaged with the travel counselors there, and nearly 90 dropped in Sunday, Greer said.

Travelers from all over — north, south, east and west — stop by the center. Many of them will ask about the new “Visit SoSi” brand adorning items and displayed in the lobby.

“Visitors smile when we say, ‘SoSi — So much to see, so much to do,’” Greer said.

Greer and the five employees, or travel counselors, at the center do not just randomly give recommendations to visitors on what to see in the region. They engage travelers, asking them what their interests are.

They will let history buffs know about tours available in the Old West End or those with the Pittsylvania Historical Society in the county. There is also the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History or the Danville Historical Society, she pointed out.

For families with young children, there is the Danville Science Center and area playgrounds. There’s ziplining offered at Dan Daniel Memorial Park, she added.

Other options for travelers interested in exploring the region — Danville and Pittsylvania County — include the Riverwalk Trail, Anglers Park and the Community Market, Greer said.

For those seeking locally made beer or wine, the region offers Ballad Brewing, 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Co. and The Homeplace Vineyard.

“Our new focus is on the complete visitor experience,” said Danville Tourism Manager Lisa Meriwether. “We offer diverse opportunities to extend their visit by providing exceptional customer service.”

Meriwether also referred to a “hub-and-spoke” methodology used when visitors ask about a local attraction.

“If the visitor asks for one attraction, our team will promote others in the area to give them a variety to possibly extend their time in our community,” Meriwether said.

Engaging with more than 100 visitors a day at the visitor center is not unusual, she said.

“We expect that number to continue to increase as more and more visitors discover our community as a tourist attraction,” Meriwether said.

Just days before a temporary casino opened in Danville in May, the new Visit SoSi regional tourism brand was unveiled by tourism officials.

The new marketing piece ties in the affiliation with Southside Virginia with a new twist by playing off the sounds of “so” and “see.”

Tourism brings in about $14 million in tax revenue to the region each year. Danville’s tourism program budget is about $768,000, and that includes the visitor center facility, operations and tourism staff, marketing, advertising and promotional materials including brochures, maps and website.

“Each week, we review what we expect would bring visitation to our community such as college move-ins and graduation, festivals, racing events, concerts and more,” Meriwether said.

When the full Caesars Virginia casino opens next year, more than 2 million visitors are expected to flood into Danville.

But beyond the casino, the region already offers tourism draws like motorsports, boating, fishing and hiking.

Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, said during the May unveiling that she expects new development within the city with new hotels, eateries and experiences.

“The work that you do every day in Danville and Pittsylvania County contributes to the economic vitality of the region,” she said Wednesday. “You have so much to be proud of and we stand there with you.”

Over a nine-month period that included about 2,000 surveys and 16 focus groups, Visit SoSi emerged as the top winner for the area’s new slogan.

The concept was developed by Eddy Alexander, a marketing and public relations agency founded in Roanoke in 2011.

Officials said in May that about 20,000 new guides — developed with the Visit SoSi reveal — would be placed in welcome centers throughout the state.

As for the visitor center, the Danville Office of Economic Development and Tourism — under the new Visit SoSi tourism program — assumed operation of the center in July 2022.

The state used to own the visitor center before turning it over to the city.

Meriwether pointed to Greer’s experience as the main reason she was hired.

“Lisa’s extensive background in hospitality and management made her a great fit and she has already begun to implement new customer service strategies making for more memorable and meaningful visits for our tourists, as well as our local businesses,” Meriwether said.

The Danville Visitor Center is different from a Virginia Welcome Center, which is owned an operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Welcome centers have space within their facilities where Virginia Tourism Corporation staff promote attractions, destinations and lodging establishments throughout the state.

There are 12 such welcome centers in Virginia, acting as gateways and first-stop destinations for travelers in the state.

The Visit SoSi visitor guides have been distributed to Virginia’s welcome centers as well as the more than 65 certified tourist information centers across Virginia, Meriwether said.

Visitor centers, on the other hand, are unique to the communities they serve, Meriwether pointed out.

Also known as certified tourist information centers, they are owned, operated and/or contracted by a public entity or supported by the community’s tourism program who has jurisdiction over the locality where the center is located, Meriwether said.

There are more than 65 certified tourist information centers across the commonwealth, she said.

To become one of those centers, “you must meet certain criteria such as regular hours of operation, be in a convenient and accessible location for ease of travelers, display a variety of brochures and other literature providing information on destinations, attractions, events, shopping, dining establishments and accommodations within the area or region the center represents,” Meriwether said.

The main goal of the visitor center manager and travel counselors are to be “an ambassador for the city of Danville,” she said.

“We must be the determining factor for a positive impression of the city of Danville,” Meriwether said.

John R. Crane (434) 791-7987 (Original Article here)