The Business of Tourism: Williamsburg

by Ryan Miller

Answers provided by Karen Riordan, president and CEO for the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance

What new projects/developments or changes in business practices are coming in the next year and beyond? How will these projects/developments impact visitation?
Each of the projects noted below offer additional reasons for new and repeat visitation to our amazing destination. Here is just a taste of some of the new experiences for 2017:

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
Special exhibitions and events throughout the year include: the inaugural special exhibition: AFTERWARD, from June 1 to Nov. 27. On July 4, join the Liberty Celebration to salute the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg
The world’s first crowd-sourced ride and the first wooden coaster, InvadR boasts a 74-foot drop, nine airtime hills and a speed of 48 mph. The initial drop will be another first: a covered drop. Resembling a tunnel, the drop will give riders an outside/inside/outside/inside/outside speed effect that’s bound to wow them.

Revolution Golf and Grille
Coming this spring in The Shops at High Street, this revolutionary sports bar will feature Virginia’s first indoor high-definition golf center with six golf simulators.

Williamsburg Inn
The renovated Williamsburg Inn re-opens in April, just in time to commemorate the historic inn’s 80th anniversary. The second part of its multi-phase renovation includes a new signature restaurant, an elegant reflection pool at the main entrance and an expanded Queen’s Terrace ideal for weddings and larger functions.

Golden Horseshoe Golf Club
The multi-million-dollar renovation of Colonial Williamsburg’s Golden Horseshoe Golf Club’s award-winning Gold Course is scheduled for completion in the spring.

Culture Café
The chefs behind some of Williamsburg’s most popular eateries, Blue Talon Bistro and The Trellis Bar and Grill, recently opened the more casual Culture Cafe in the heart of The College of William and Mary. The new restaurant unites cultures and food by serving small plates in a uniquely communal dining experience.

Virginia Beer Company
In March, Virginia Beer Company started bottling specialty beers in 750 ml bottles. The first release will be their first anniversary beer, an Imperial Stout that has been aging in Old Forrester Bourbon barrels and Laphroaig Scotch barrels.

Williamsburg Winery
In 2017, The Williamsburg Winery will enhance two very popular programs: Every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. the Wine & Brine Lounge at the Gabriel Archer Tavern features Chesapeake Bay’s finest oysters along with other fresh seafood delights such as shrimp and mussels. On Sundays, join cycling enthusiasts from the winery team on a group ride through the Historic Triangle and back to the winery for wine and brunch specials.

Copper Fox Distillery
Copper Fox’s second distillery, which opened in Williamsburg in late 2016, is adding Scottish Master Distiller Andrew Shand this year along with a new cocktail menu that changes seasonally. The new facility boasts an outdoor patio and fire pit and a new Malt House where visitors can get a behind-the-curtain look at the malting process.

Billsburg Brewery
A new addition to the Williamsburg Tasting Trail will be the Billsburg Brewery scheduled to open in the fall of 2017 at the Jamestown Marina. The venue will feature a tasting room adjacent to the brewing operation and will be the ninth member of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail.

What new advertising/marketing focuses are you implementing?
We continue to monitor marketing opportunities and trends that allow us to maximize our media dollars with a stronger consumer reach. Our campaigns for 2017 will continue to emphasize the Freedom to Have Fun. Research shows us that families having fun is a priority for vacation planners, and we want to make sure that potential visitors understand the many ways you can experience fun in Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.

What are your largest challenges and obstacles? Who is your competition?
Our biggest challenge is competing destinations with far larger budgets for marketing their destinations. We know we have an amazing destination with incredible reasons for visitation, but we need additional dollars to reach potential visitors.

What does tourism mean to the City of Williamsburg? 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?  Tourism is extremely important to the City of Williamsburg, James City County and York County that all three make up our region with a 2015 total tourism expenditure of almost $1.2 billion. We have almost 12,000 people employed in the tourism industry with over $226 million in tourism payroll. Our region benefited from over $44 million dollars in local tax receipts in 2015. While a portion of these taxes are re-invested in tourism marketing, the majority of the funds generated go to support the services provided by our three municipalities including education and personal property tax fee savings.

Do you feel that the cities of Coastal Virginia sufficiently work together to boost tourism? If not, how do you think that the relationships among cities could improve?
We do enjoy strong partnerships with all of our regional destination marketing organizations both individually as well as through partnerships in the Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance. We all benefit from the attractions each offer, and the visitors love our region for the many options that we offer as a whole. We all win when we work together, and we look forward to continuing to grow these relationships and the opportunities they afford.

How does Williamsburg work with other regional partners to sell the region to visitors?
We are always looking for opportunities to work together, and we do in a variety of ways, not only in the Coastal Virginia region but also with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Capital Region USA, an international marketing partnership between Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. From production orientation familiarization tours, to tradeshows, client events, sales missions and more, we always appreciate the opportunity to work together for a stronger and more efficient result.

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