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Speaker: Despite economy, tourism growing in Virginia

“Travel is a lifestyle,” and despite a flat economy, tourism is one market that continues to grow year after year.

So learned more than 50 people attending the Tourism Summit hosted by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association at the Berry Hill Mansion and Resort Tuesday afternoon.

The summit made its way to Southside Virginia facilitating discussion among industry experts, policy makers, the General Assembly tourism caucus and members of the tourism business community about the importance of tourism in Southern Virginia.

During the two-hour long meeting, Halifax County Tourism Director Linda Shepperd welcomed everyone and introduced elected officials and community leaders in attendance including Halifax County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Matt Leonard, Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy, Halifax County ED-6 Supervisor Larry Giordano among others.

Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association President Eric Terry offered a research presentation on the hotel market in Virginia, and Esra Calvert of the Virginia Tourism Corporation followed with a presentation about the economy in Virginia and its impact on travel and tourism.

“Travel is a lifestyle,” Calvert told the crowd. She explained tourism continues to grow year after year despite the economy.

Thad Smith offered a presentation on the branding efforts and marketing campaign of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

According to Smith, the corporation’s challenge is that their brand — “Virginia Is For Lovers” — is so well known they need to reconnect back to people and make sure they know it’s about travel.

The summit also included a 45-minute panel discussion. 

Those on the panel included Diana Ramsey of MacCallum More Museum and Gardens, Mecklenburg County Tourism Director Justin Kerns, Nichol Cooper of Coopers Landing Inn and Travelers Tavern, Steven Schopen of Molasses Grill, and Kristian Harvard of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association served as moderator.