Governor Youngkin Announces 10 Virginia Communities to Launch New Tourism Programs and Boost Outdoor Recreation

Participating Destination Marketing Organizations in selected communities to receive up to $200,000 in implementation grants

By: Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that 10 Virginia communities will launch new tourism programs to boost their outdoor recreation economy. Each will receive up to $20,000 through the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) DRIVE Outdoor grant program, a tourism development grant program targeting outdoor product development and entrepreneurial expansion throughout the Commonwealth.  

The grants will support the outdoor recreation industry in the Commonwealth, which continues to thrive in Virginia and remains a driving force in the broader American economy. In 2021, outdoor recreation contributed $9.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy and supported 107,000 jobs and $4.8 billion in wages and salaries in Virginia according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  

“Outdoor recreation is an important part of Virginia’s economy and key to furthering the Commonwealth’s position as a top destination on the East Coast,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The projects developed from the DRIVE Outdoor program will spur job creation, private investment, and endless opportunities for outdoor-focused partnerships.” 

Aimed to meet the consumer demand for upcoming summer travel, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) will use awarded funds for development projects that will have an immediate impact on their outdoor recreation offerings. Projects include purchasing new outdoor recreation equipment for more rentals and outfitting opportunities, events, or studies for outdoor recreation development and expansion.  

Participating communities utilized current travel data, trends, and research to develop their plans along with holding workshops to gather input from the public and stakeholders on how the plans could attract new travelers and boost economic activity. 

DRIVE Outdoor Communities Awarded Funding: 

  • Bristol 
  • Charlottesville-Albemarle County 
  • Floyd County 
  • Giles County 
  • Harrisonburg 
  • Lexington-Rockbridge Area 
  • Nelson County 
  • Smithfield-Isle of Wight County 
  • Virginia’s Blue Ridge  
  • Waynesboro 

“Virginia is known for its natural beauty. Growing our outdoor economy will spur job creation and private investment, further enhance Virginia as an outdoor destination, and provide endless opportunities for outdoor-focused tourism partnerships,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “The opportunities created from this program will help further position Virginia as the top state on the East Coast for outdoor recreation and a natural fit for outdoor businesses.” 

DRIVE Outdoor builds on the DRIVE 2.0 Statewide Strategic Plan to enhance outdoor recreational development, assets, and entrepreneurial opportunities within Virginia. Following their participation in the program, communities received the foundation for a competitive outdoor product development plan, including specific action steps, success factors, timelines, priorities, and identified partners to help with project success.  

“These new outdoor recreation projects will only add to the tourism opportunities across the Commonwealth, a destination already celebrated for its iconic outdoor assets,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “Virginia offers unparalleled outdoor experiences enjoyed by millions of people every year and the projects these communities develop will only further solidify our reputation as a premier destination for outdoor lovers.”  

“The DRIVE Program was a great way for us to gather community stakeholders and initiate conversations that we may not have otherwise,” said Courtney Cacatian, Executive Director for the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, a participant in the program. “This funding allows us to address key gaps in our destination and enhance the outdoor experience for all residents and tourists.” 

DRIVE Outdoor will create new outdoor recreation experiences in Virginia to add to the variety of its approachable activities for every skill level and interest. To explore more of Virginia’s numerous outdoor offerings, visit virginia.org/outdoors

The next round of DRIVE Outdoor will open Summer 2023. To learn more about DRIVE Outdoor, please visit vatc.org/driveoutdoor.

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