[cleeng_content id="482374493" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Jefferson County is located in one of the most historic regions of the United States. From Native American trails and fords to early ferry transportation to railroad bridges and bridges that link the county to Maryland and Virginia, the county has been in motion.
A crossroads county that brings both visitors and residents to explore, recreate and enjoy a quality of life that is enriched with a broad cultural and natural landscape.
I have often thought that perhaps we are too rich in these assets to appreciate them and market them effectively. Who markets Jefferson County and for what purpose? What is our brand and who is our audience?
What do we want our tourism marketing to focus on? Some folks say, well, we just want visitors to come for the day, spend their money and go home. No long-term investment, just a short-term money dump.
Other folks say, we want visitors to come for a weekend, explore the county by spending time in our small towns, browsing our shops, strolling along our sidewalks, biking our roads, taking in an art or craft show, expanding our thinking in the Contemporary American Theater Festival experience, or just sitting in one of our parks — either county or national — and gazing out at our beautiful Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. They take the journey with us and return to invest in our small towns’ businesses and perhaps bring their business back into our county. For cultural, heritage and recreational tourism are proven economic drivers.
I work with many nonprofit organizations whose missions are to help support a sustainable economic and tourism model for the county and region.
These nonprofits are filled with countless volunteers who spend their time, expertise and obvious love for this county to treasure these cultural and historic assets.
As Chair of the Canal Towns Partnership I work with eight towns along the Potomac who share a gateway with the C&O National Historical Park. These towns have gathered around the table to work together in branding their gateways to the historic canal in logo design, brochures, a web site and kiosks — they have successfully branded their towns.
This strategy has been rewarding as over 1 million hikers, bikers and strollers wander into our towns each week to explore our shops, eat in our restaurants, stay in our inns and hotels and leave having had a great experience — and they plan to return.
Many more residents of the region are taking advantage of backyard tourism and joining our visitors in their journey. Our streets are filled with residents waving as the parades pass by, taking in the fun of our annual “Street Fest,” participating in Freedoms Run and the many cultural events that fill our weekends.
What then is our “brand?” I would say it is a brand that encourages visitors and residents alike to invest in these assets and seek to join us in sustaining the natural and cultural landscape for future visitors and residents alike. This is our Pride in Our Place and we are the audience.
— Lois Turco is the Chair of Two Rivers Heritage Partnership and co-Chair of Canal Towns Partnership[/cleeng_content]