Town adopts strategic tourism plan
By Michael Howlett Staff Writer
The Hillsville Town Council unanimously adopted the final draft of the 2013 Town of Hillsville Tourism Strategic Plan during its meeting on Sept. 9.
Town Manager Travis Jackson said the five-year plan is “the first step in developing a tourism zone,” which will allow the town to take advantage of state incentives to lure new tourist business.
The plan’s vision statement reads “The Town of Hillsville envisions a community that collaborates with the tourism industry to utilize the town as a central destination for tourists to experience the town’s rich musical and cultural history/heritage, the growing creative arts scene, and natural assets that further develop outdoor recreation to increase tourism.”
The following mission statement calls for the town “to lead, develop, and promote a focused tourism program which attracts visitors to enjoy the diverse tourism opportunities throughout the town.”
Five goals are listed in the plan, beginning with “Partnerships: Unify the tourism industry to make Hillsville a destination” the first.
The five objectives are create partnerships with local groups to enhance the tourism program, increase communication, planning and coordination among government entities, develop and enhance communication and partnering among Virginia tourism stakeholders, and create strong partnerships with local governments, the chamber of commerce, friends of Hillsville, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, regional tourism organizations, clubs, churches, schools and colleges.
There is a timeline of two years to complete this goal.
The second goal is “Policies: Implement the Tourism Zone program for the town limits to create incentives for brick and mortar projects within the Town of Hillsville for product development to increase the amount of tourism businesses, attractions and other businesses.”
Among the “action items” for this goal is continued exploration of alternative, creative funding solutions, working with local governments to secure dedicated funding that can be reinvested for tourism marketing and development purposes, and exploration of development of tourism business programs, such as incubators, local governments, small business administrations and economic development programs. Other listed action items are the evaluation of business policies and ordinances at the local level that may impact visitation and tourism growth, and engagement in preservation and sustainability efforts at the local level regarding historical, cultural and environmental assets, such as the historic Carroll County Courthouse and the Allen Tragedy.
The plan called for funding, investment, development plans and Tourism Zone codes to be available to developers by 2014.
Goal No. 3 is “Product: Solidify Hillsville as a downtown tourism destination through product development.”
Among the action items are the designation of a Tourism Zone and guidelines for recruitment of tourism businesses, as well as creating a recruitment plan to attract unique and family-style restaurants, a “general store,” art galleries, winery shops and specialty retail stores that will have evening and weekend hours, and the addition of public restrooms.
Other items include the creation of an outdoor stage venue for musical and stage performances, a downtown farmers’ market, repurposing of the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home as a tourist attraction, and working with the Carroll County Historical Society to create activities that bring light to the Allen Tragedy and other historical events.
“Pillars: Improve visitor wayfinding, interstates signage and gateway entrances” is the fourth stated goal, which has a two-year timetable.
The first objective is to “create a sign system that will lead travelers to Hillsville. Among the action items included in this objective are developing an inner town directional sign system to direct visitors to lodging, food and attractions, placing billboards or a sign system on I-77 to direct traffic into town, and work to make sure Google Maps, Mobile Aps and Map Quest are up to date with town attractions. In addition, the town should implement a trolley system to transport visitors from lodgings at I-77 to attractions and businesses in Hillsville.
The second objective listed on the plan calls for the town to provide training and education for the tourism businesses and their partners. Action items call for town leaders to encourage town businesses to join the County Tourism Ambassador Program provided by the state tourism staff, and provide customer training service to workers so as to improve their knowledge of the tourism assets available in Hillsville and the surrounding area, and providing updates on events, activities and itinerary tours to employees of new tourism assets. The town should also utilize the Tourism Visitors Center to promote local events, and gather information from visitor centers, hotels, restaurants, events and attractions to determine what interests tourists.
The final goal of the plan is “Promotions: Implement an overall marketing program for both internal and external communications in partnership with the town, county and tourism staff.” In order to accomplish this, the town should implement an internal communications system that updates the local tourism industry, as well as state tourism officials, of data, events, attractions and festivals. As part of this, a newsletter should be developed immediately.
A second objective is to promote local events to the external market by creating a tourism campaign for the AAA offices in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, and to partner with the Virginia State Welcome Centers located in other areas. In addition, the town should create a marketing campaign and apply for the VTC Marketing Leverage Grant to increase tourism.
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