Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison and Orange have each received $10,000 to promote themselves during an ongoing health crisis through the newly announced “WanderLove” pandemic recovery marketing grant program of Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday announced awards to 90 “destination marketing organizations” across the state worth a total of $866,504. All of the localities and businesses have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Culpeper Tourism will use the money to market the town and county “as an epic road trip destination” through a digital media campaign targeting mid-Atlantic markets, according to a news release from Paige Read, director of Culpeper Tourism & Economic Development for the town.

Named the “Prettiest Small Town in Virginia” by Architectural Digest, Culpeper is a safe and accessible destination for families and travelers seeking to re-enter the travel market, she said.

There is a strong desire to travel in Virginia, Read added, and a lot of pent-up demand as public health restrictions continue. Culpeper’s marketing campaign will feature low-risk experiences such as outdoor recreation, small town charm, roadside wonders, hidden gems and history, she said.

“We are already known as a road trip destination. No matter the route you take, you are bound to bump into wineries, breweries, pick-your-own farms, open-air museums and parks as you travel to Culpeper. When you arrive, you get to experience the joy of life moving a bit slower, where the noise and chaos of crowded streets fade away,” Read said. “Where locals are dedicated to providing exceptional customer service with added safety measures to ensure you feel secure.”

First Lady Pamela Northam joined the governor and state tourism leaders and local officials at an event in Alexandria on Wednesday morning to recognize Visit Alexandria as a grant recipient. The event the governor attended prior to visiting Culpeper’s Lake Pelham highlighted how Alexandria’s small businesses are demonstrating resilience.

“Tourism is one of the largest sectors of Virginia’s economy, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the industry,” Northam said. “Travel will look different for as long as this virus is with us, and many Virginians are seeking getaways that are closer to home. The WanderLove Recovery Grants will help our localities prepare for a rebound in tourism, market their destinations as safe and accessible, and drive new economic activity as we gradually welcome visitors back.”

WanderLove provides travel inspiration for road trips, outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns, and its signature LOVEworks program. The campaign was created in response to industry research indicating that travelers will be seeking safe, close-to-home destinations that allow for social distancing and have access to open spaces like beaches, outdoor recreation, and rural experiences.

Floyd County will use WanderLove funds for a community-wide program to assist local businesses in developing itineraries that highlight the best of Floyd. Charlottesville, in addition to promoting local attractions, will engage with the Northern Neck Tourism Commission and Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority to do cross-promotion and drive visitation to all parts of Virginia.

Loudoun County will develop a digital toolkit to generate awareness and excitement among its local business community. The city of Fredericksburg Dept. of Economic Development & Tourism received a $4,800 grant through the program.

In 2018 in Virginia, visitors spent $26 billion, which supported 236,000 work opportunities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. Visitors to Culpeper spent more than $44.5 million in 2018, supporting more than 420 work opportunities and contributing $2.85 million in local and state tax revenue.

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