Grand Hotel SPLT Leaderboard May 2019

Unique experiences don’t fall short in Virginia; in fact, they’re celebrated. From oyster trails to aqua farm tours, groups will always find something fun and memorable. Joni Johnson, director of domestic sales and marketing with Virginia Tourism Corp., gave Associate Editor Kelsey Smith insight about group experiences.

Joni Johnson, director of domestic sales & marketing with Virginia Tourism Corp
Joni Johnson, director of domestic sales & marketing with Virginia Tourism Corp Credit: Virginia Tourism Corp.

Q. What are some tour themes in Virginia that operators can build from?

A. History: Virginia is where America was born — now more than 400 years ago — and is also home to civil rights, and Revolutionary and Civil War history.

Trails: Throughout the state, you can find a trail to fit your interest; try The Crooked Road music trail or the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail. Nature trails highlight birding and wildlife, and there’s also the Fields of Gold Farm Trail and wine, craft beer and oyster trails.

Theater, music and the arts: Enjoy entertainment at a rousing dinner theater, drama under the stars, old-time music in a general store and the drums of the Virginia International Tattoo.

Educational: From Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens, we have the perfect mix of education and fun!

Q. What industry trends are you noticing?

A. Unique and VIP experiences continue to be popular tour requests. I’ve noticed increasing interest in adding in a destination’s flavor with stops at local restaurants and culinary tastings, and by trying craft beverages — cider, beer and spirits. Virginia has unique, chef-owned restaurants, 300-plus wineries, 200-plus breweries and a growing number of distilleries statewide, which fits in perfectly with this trend. Farm or aqua farm tour requests are on the rise as well.

Q. What are you most proud of about your organization?

A. I’m most proud of all the partnerships and affordable opportunities that Virginia Tourism Corp. offers our tourism industry to help market destinations, attractions and properties. I’m also proud of the level of commitment of our group tour partners and the willingness to work well together in VTC-led marketing initiatives, such as regional itineraries, FAM tours, sales missions, client events and conferences, to leverage their limited funds and resources.

Q. What’s the next big thing for Virginia Tourism Corp.?

A. Virginia is For Lovers® was established in 1969, 50 years ago, and has become one of the most beloved and well-known slogans in the world. In 2019, we’re celebrating “50 Years of Love” with special experiences across the state. During this year of celebration, we invite you to eat, drink and explore what you love in Virginia.

Contact Virginia Tourism Corp. at 804-545-5544 or visit virginia.org/groups.