The Business of Tourism: Eastern Shore

by Ryan Miller

Answers provided by Kerry Allison, Executive Director of Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission

How is your market doing in terms of yearly revenue, year/year hotel occupancy and year/year RevPAR?
The tourism economy on Virginia’s Eastern Shore continues its record growth with visitor spending increasing 2.6 percent in 2015 compared to the prior year and a growth rate almost twice that of the state’s 1.4 percent. In 2015, visitors to the Eastern Shore spent a record $261 million at restaurants, B&BS, hotels, campgrounds, shops, galleries, museums, attractions and on other travel-related items. This translates to an average of $715,720 a day streaming into businesses from Cape Charles to Chincoteague. Travelers also contribute sales, lodging and meals tax to the ESVA economy and in 2015, local tax revenues totaled $7 million here, a whopping 6 percent increase from the year prior, and an increase of 22 percent since 2010. Local tax dollars flow directly into Northampton and Accomack counties and towns.

What new projects/developments or changes in business practices are coming in the next year and beyond?
New projects include Cape Charles Brewing Co., opening in 2017 and a new water park opening in Chincoteague in 2017.

What new advertising/marketing focuses are you implementing?
A focus on building the shoulder markets, bringing younger consumers here by focusing on outdoor recreation, creating a year-round birding destination and broadening our content marketing platform via a feature story blog, a new website, social media and third party content curation.

What are your largest challenges and obstacles? Who is your competition?
Resources are the biggest challenge. Our competition is other undeveloped and pristine mid-Atlantic coastal destinations.

What does tourism mean to the Eastern Shore? How does it affect local taxes, and how does it affect our quality of life? How does it help drive our local economy, jobs and the quality of our schools and education system?
Increased tourism-related tax revenues assist local jurisdictions with their budget challenges.

How does the Eastern Shore work with other regional partners to sell the region to visitors?
The Easter Shore is, in itself, a regional organization marketing a broad and diverse coastal region. The Eastern Shore regional sub markets include Cape Charles, Exmore, Onancock, Wachapreague and Chincoteague. We leverage regional partners outside of our own to further elevate our brand in addition to the Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance: Virginia Oyster Trail; the Virginia Tourism Corporation; the statewide Artisan Trail; and regional grant partnerships.

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