By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton County’s two biggest towns, Exmore and Cape Charles, each have received a grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program to help their economies survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cape Charles received a $20,000 grant through the nonprofit organization, Cape Charles Main Street. The funds will be used to promote the tourist town’s fall, winter, and spring shoulder seasons.
The goal is “to help our businesses not only recover from short-term losses due to the impact of COVID 19 but to … build longer-term stability,” according to a Cape Charles Main Street press release.
This strategy is based on the idea that “COVID has driven more people to stay closer to home,” said Cape Charles Main Street Executive Director Karen Zamorski.
“Here on the Eastern Shore, we understand that our best opportunity for recovery is to market to those day trippers who are craving outdoor experiences, exploring historic architecture, shopping unique shops and savoring incredible food,” she said.
“People don’t realize that 27 of the best shops, restaurants, spirits, etc. are right here in their own backyard!” Zamorski said.
The Town of Exmore received a $10,000 grant that will be used to promote spring travel and build additional web presence for Visit Exmore, the town’s tourism campaign.
Visit Exmore was created to showcase the town’s amenities, including more than 150 businesses like New Ravenna, an internationally recognized manufacturer of handcrafted mosaics.
Exmore also boasts three national hotel chains, Exmore Town Park, and a growing list of annual events including Shakespeare in the Park (a fall event offered free to the public), oyster roasts, car shows, and the Eastern Shore’s only Juneteenth festival.
“Exmore is ideally positioned in the geographic mid-section of the Eastern Shore peninsula, within easy reach of attractions in all directions,” said Exmore Mayor Douglas Greer in an additional press release.
“Revenues generated by travelers make a substantial impact on our local community and help strengthen our infrastructure,” he said.
“As we emerge from the 2020 downturn in travel, Exmore plans to leverage this grant to support a rebound for our business community in ways that increase tourism activity and spending in 2021,” Greer said.
Exmore visitors contributed about $485,000 in local and state tax revenue in 2019.
Cape Charles visitors contributed more than $2 million in local and state tax revenue in 2019, spending more than $26 million in town and supporting close to 500 work opportunities.
A total of $27 billion was spent by Virginia visitors in 2019, providing $1.8 billion in local and state taxes and supporting 237,000 work opportunities.
The Virginia Tourism Corporation is the state agency that has been tasked with marketing the commonwealth as a travel and film destination.
More than $1.9 million in matching grant funds have been awarded to 161 tourism initiatives through the Recovery Marketing Leverage Program. Local partners will provide more than $5.6 million in-kind value to match the grants, impacting 483 Virginia tourism entities.
Virginia’s tourism and hospitality industries were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with decreased revenue, job loss, and temporary closure of businesses.
The Virginia Tourism grants represent a “first step to re-entry into the marketplace,” and a revived tourism economy can help spur new economic activity and inject critical funds back into Virginia communities,” the press releases stated.
Gov. Ralph Northam said, “Tourism is a crucial section of the Virginia economy and when we invest in this industry, we support local job creation and drive regional economic growth, which is desperately needed now due to the pandemic.
“These funds give localities and businesses access to critical marketing resources that will help bring more travelers to our Commonwealth, increase visitor spending, and grow demand for Virginia products.”