Governor Ralph Northam announced today that Taste of Blue Ridge received $25,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation Marketing Leverage Program grant fund. The grant’s focus is on branding the Blue Ridge as a culinary destination.  In total VTC awarded more than $890,000 for 57 tourism marketing projects across the state to help increase visitation and revenue for Virginia’s localities through tourism.

The grants are designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging local marketing dollars, and will ultimately impact at least 232 other statewide tourism entities. The local organizations match the state grant funds by a minimum of 2:1 in order to support marketing projects. This funding cycle, the local partners will match the VTC grant dollars with more than $4 million, providing more than $4.9 million in new marketing to increase visitation to Virginia.

Marketing Partners for the Grant include:

Under the guidance of Encore Elite Partners (EEP), Taste of Blue Ridge’s Lead Partner- Nibblins of Rutherford Crossing received a $25,000 grant for its “Exploring Taste of Blue Ridge’s Food Scene through Video and Photography”. Nibblins partnered with:

  • Hillbrook Inn and Spa, Charles Town, WV
  • Magnolias at the Mill, Purcellville, VA
  • The George Washington Hotel, Winchester, VA
  • Throx Market Station, Winchester, VA
  • Schenck Foods Company, Winchester, VA.

These partners supplied $50,000 in matching funds for the project. The project is centered on highlighting restaurant and lodging owners, retail stores, chefs, farmers, craft beverage producers, and food consumers. It will focus on creating a full-length video showcasing the northern Blue Ridge mountain region as a food destination for culinary travelers.

Culinary Tourism – Traveling for the food experience

“Culinary Tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism market. At the present time, the state of Virginia is not recognized as a culinary destination nationally or internationally. People travel to Virginia for history and outdoor adventure and are surprised to find the level of culinary excellence. According to The World Food Travel Association, ‘Food and beverage are essential to the guest’s experience. Approximately 86% of the guests claim having positive food experience on a trip would make them more likely to return to a particularly destination,”” said Nancy Craun, CEO of Encore Elite Partners the marketing firm handing the branding of Taste of Blue Ridge.

“I plan all of my vacations around the cuisine at the would-be destination,” said Jason Huntsberry, CEO of Schenck Foods, Inc.

Beth Erickson, Director of Visit Loudoun: “Although Loudoun is well know for its wineries and breweries, we know that this is only part of the culinary experience. We are excited to endorse Taste of Blue Ridge’s effort to expand Virginia’s total culinary brand. Our farms are growing every year with our local chefs helping in their sustainability.”

The VTC Marketing Leverage Program is designed to stimulate new tourism marketing through partnerships by leveraging limited marketing dollars, resulting in increased visitor spending.  A minimum of three entities must partner financially to apply and may consist of Virginia towns, cities, counties, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, other local or regional destination marketing organizations, private businesses, museums, attractions, cultural events, and other tourism-related entities.

Research shows that every VTC dollar invested in grants resulted in $16 of direct visitor spending. Marketing campaigns that received Marketing Leverage Grants increased visitation by 15%.

“The tourism industry continues to be one of the fastest-growing and most innovative industries in Virginia, proving to be an instant revenue generator year after year,” said Governor Northam. “Our tourism businesses from across the Commonwealth recognize the importance of new product. They have created inventive, strategic marketing initiatives to showcase the many lures that Virginia has to offer. These grants will support those initiatives, and will help draw thousands of visitors to the Commonwealth to experience all of the things that make Virginia so special: our scenic beauty, exciting restaurants, historic sites, music venues and festivals, charming small towns, oysters, wine, craft beer and more.”

“The Marketing Leverage Program grants continue to inject critical funds into communities across the Commonwealth, helping to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Brian Ball, Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “The tourism industry is an economic engine for Virginia. Last year, visitors spent $25 billion, which supported 232,000 jobs and contributed $1.73 billion in state and local taxes. By leveraging these marketing funds and public-private partnerships, the Marketing Leverage Program grants will help to spur even more economic activity, funneling dollars back into our cities and towns across Virginia.”

Tourism is an instant revenue generator for Virginia. In 2017, tourism generated $25 billion in revenue, supported nearly 232,000 jobs and provided $1.73 billion in state and local taxes. Dollars invested in tourism are proven to provide a 7:1 return in tax revenue for Virginia, and the grant awards and matching funds provide a stimulus to localities seeking to increase tourism visitation and revenue.