GATE CITY — Scott County Tourism and the town of Gate City have received grants from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Recovery Marketing Leverage Program (RMLP).

The program is designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of the state grant funds. More than $1.9 million in matching grant funds was awarded to 161 local tourism initiatives through this program.

This funding cycle, local partners will provide more than $5.6 million worth of in-kind value to match the VTC grants. The grants will ultimately impact 483 statewide tourism entities.

Scott County Tourism

Scott County Tourism received $20,000 to develop a marketing campaign entitled “More than the Tub, Scott County, Virginia.”

“In the last few years, the Devil’s Bathtub has been recognized as one of the top destinations in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Pam Cox, director of tourism for Scott County. “There are some weeks when this location receives as many as 500 visitors.

“With visitation numbers like this, we wanted to develop a campaign that would drive tourists out into other parts of the county, not just the Devil’s Bathtub. There is so much more to the county than just the Tub, like Falls of Little Stony, Creation Kingdom Zoo, Carter Family Fold, Bark Camp Lake, the Clinch River, and our downtown shopping district. We want folks to visit the Tub, but stay longer and spend more money in the locality.”

Town of Gate City

The town of Gate City received $20,000 to develop partnerships with local tourist destinations. The town’s goal is to increase traffic and sales for downtown businesses. Key focus areas will include:

• Developing programs to increase tourism;

• Increasing overnight stays at the bed and breakfasts located in the downtown business district;

• Increasing tax revenue for the town through meals tax, business license tax, and transient lodging tax;

• Creating a memorable experience for tourists that will make them want to tell their friends and visit again;

• Increasing visitation to event venues and tourist destination locations;

• Creating new resources and opportunity for local businesses;

• Creating dynamic partnerships that will positively impact Gate City, Scott County and Southwest Virginia in future endeavors;

• Fueling artistic growth by providing local musicians and artisans a venue to showcase their talents;

• Providing an economical source of entertainment for tourists;

• Expanding upon and continuing its musical heritage.

“We are so pleased to receive this grant to assist us in bringing tourism to the Gate City downtown businesses and the local area,” said Mayor Bob Richards. “Tourism is one of the keys that is vital to Gate City’s continued economic growth. We are confident once others travel to Gate City they will discover the history, the charm and the beauty that Gate City has to offer they will be back and will tell their friends and family to visit us. This is a great investment in our community and one that will pay dividends for years to come.”

Supporting tourism

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism and hospitality industries in Virginia. As the commonwealth slowly reopens for business, VTC offered these grant funds as a first step to re-entry into the marketplace to spur economic activity and future travel across Virginia.

“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,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “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.”

Tourism is one of Virginia’s largest economic engines, with visitors to Scott County spending more than $18,927,158 in 2019, supporting 177 work opportunities and contributing $451,108 in local and state tax revenue, according to a press release.

The tourism and hospitality industries have also been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, experiencing decreased revenue and job loss, along with the temporary closure of many tourism-related businesses. A revived tourism economy can help spur new economic activity and inject critical funds back into Virginia communities.