Tourism Numbers Keep Heading Upwards In The Blue Ridge

The Blue Ridge Region is defined as localities in the central Roanoke Valley, along with Botetourt and Franklin Counties.

For an 8th straight year the revenue from hotel room sales went up in 2017 (over $100 million) and the number of rooms sold was also a record in the region now defined as Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

The president of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Landon Howard, says the single most important reason that record growth has happened “is because this region works together so seamlessly. I’m not aware of any other region in the Commonwealth that works [as well] together as we do.” That’s at the government and the private levels. “It’s just one big team effort that brings in more and more visitors and more money.”

With a new hotel in the valley opening up on average about every 7 months Howard says that’s another plus. “As the market grows we’re seeing interest in [hotel] investment grow as well.”

Adopting the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Brand has helped define the region, making it easier to market as a tourist destination and as a focal point for outside journalists that have come in to the valley to describe for their readers the opportunities available here. “We realize we are stronger together than we are separately – with that we’re bringing in more sporting events, more conventions and more leisure visitors than ever.”

Emphasizing the positive attributes is how those numbers will continue to grow adds Howard – what’s happening in the mountain biking community, the microbrewery expansion and opportunities for regional and national health care meetings.

“Taking full advantage of what we have to offer,” says Howard, with a special emphasis on the sports tournaments that can bring thousands of athletes and families to the valley. At press time Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge was getting set to announce a new initiative, VBR Sports, centered on that sector. “We see sports growing tremendously over the next few years.” That includes tennis, disc golf and probably “many sports that people have not heard about before.”

He’s also excited about plans for Roanoke County’s Explore Park: camp sites and cabins have already been approved, a mountain biking skills trail for novices is being planned and adventure activities like zip lines are on the drawing board.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that when Explore Park is fully developed it’s going to be a destination in and of itself. The planning for Explore Park is just incredible.” He envisions visitors coming in from “long distances” to take advantage of amenities that will start rolling out this year. The Blue Ridge Region is defined as localities in the central Roanoke Valley, along with Botetourt and Franklin Counties.

Gene Marrano