By Carol Vaughn — The Accomack County Board of Supervisors Wednesday approved a plan to spend on tourism $260,000 in federal funds received as result of the American Rescue Plan Act.
The funds come to Accomack County through the Virginia Tourism Corporation and must be used for tourism marketing and development.
The program required that the county work with its three destination marketing organizations — the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce, the town of Onancock, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission — to come up with a plan to spend the money.
Half of the money will be made available once the county’s plan is approved, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation website.
The remaining money will be disbursed once the VTC receives adequate documentation of payments for items.
There is no local match requirement.
Robert Sabbatini, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Commission, presented the plan for spending the funds to the board of supervisors.
“I am pleased to inform you all that everyone I met with is happy,” about the plan, he said, calling the plan a model for other localities.
Under the plan as approved, the Chincoteague chamber will receive $80,000; Onancock will receive $50,000; and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission will receive $130,000. The ESVA tourism commission will work with towns without their own destination marketing organization.
The planned expenditure of the ESVA tourism commission’s allocation is:
ESVA Tourism Commission – $60,000
Wachapreague – $15,000
Onley – $10,000
Saxis – $10,000
Keller – $10,000
Parksley – $10,000
Tangier – $7,500
Belle Haven – $7,500
Chincoteague plans to rebuild its website, install a digital outdoor kiosk, host an Instagram blogger who will produce a tour video and photographs, add to the chamber’s photograph and video library, and pay for marketing campaigns with two television stations.
Onancock plans to use its allocation to invest in projects to enhance tourism, including a welcome center, an interactive phone application, and printed materials.
The ESVA tourism commission plans to use its allocation to explore and lock in a national exposure initiative, such as a travel channel or national magazine, for the Shore.
Additionally, it wants to expand its outreach to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, and southwest Virginia.
Of the towns that detailed plans for the funds, Wachapreague officials wrote that they would like to increase marketing to major metropolitan areas, whose residents typically drive past the Route 180 intersection with Route 13.
Parksley officials wrote that they will use the funds to promote the town’s major events, including its “Old Fashioned Christmas” and at least one summer event, along with minor upgrades to public restrooms.
The town also plans to unveil a LOVE works sign once a new stage being built in the center of town is completed.
Keller’s goals include developing a website and a town brand, logo, and slogan that build on Keller’s history, including the Keller Fair, railroad depot, and other history.
Additionally, Keller officials want to develop a “take pride in your community” campaign to improve the town’s appearance.
Saxis plans to use funding to possibly create a pamphlet and further develop the town website, in order to continue to inform tourists about amenities and businesses in town, including the free fishing pier, public restrooms, a pavilion, free boat launch, public beach, museum, vacation rentals, and restaurants, among other amenities.
Onley officials wrote that the town has a rich railroad history, including a restored train station and museum; more than 80 retail businesses, including the Shore’s only Walmart; an array of restaurants; a YMCA; the Onley Recreation Association; a women’s club; McMath Park, which has a playground, barbecue grills, and a gazebo; and diverse churches.
Additionally, the Eastern Shore Rail Trail will go through Onley.
Tangier wants to develop a rack card and promote its museum.
Belle Haven plans to use the funds to refurbish the marquee and display cases at the historic Idle Hour Theater, with plans to advertise town meetings, announcements, and other community activities.
In addition to this award, the Virginia Tourism Corporation awarded more than $2.7 million for 259 local and regional tourism marketing programs, including in Chincoteague, which received $20,000 for a multi-platform digital marketing strategy focused on Hampton Roads, Richmond, and northern Virginia.
“Concentrated efforts to promote events and offerings to folks within a 4-5 hour drive makes sense in today’s world of high gas prices,” said Evelyn Shotwell, executive director of the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce. “Nature’s bounty and small town charm are just a short drive away, but miles away from ordinary.”
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission also received $20,000 for its project, “On a wing and a beach,” which will promote off-season and low-impact tourism, with a focus on birding, bicycling, and artisans.
The tourism commission also received $7,550 to promote “Stories of the Shore,” which will help connect visitors to the Shore’s people, heritage, and unique attributes.
“These grants will continue to strengthen the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and I am very grateful to the Virginia Tourism Commission,” said Sabbatini, adding, “The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s culture, outdoors, and, most importantly, people will continue to attract visitors from all over and these grants will help make that possible. Our team here at the ESVA Tourism Commission is ready and willing to be a resource for all here on the Shore.”