Trails and loops
The focus on connecting and branding experiences has led to a proliferation of “trails” and “loops” – a way of linking together attractions for tourists through websites and social media. There’s the ‘Tween Rivers Trail, the Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop, the Rappahannock County Artisans Trail, the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, the Fields of Gold Farm Trail.
The ‘Tween Rivers Trail (TRT), for instance, is coordinated by the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission (RRRC), with the goal of promoting agritourism businesses in Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, Fauquier and Orange counties. To be included on the trail, businesses need to show they reflect the region’s agricultural or artisanal heritage. While there is no membership fee, businesses are encouraged to promote other trail members on their websites and marketing materials. More than half of the 80 current members are wineries or B&Bs.
It’s hard to gauge how effective the TRT has been in raising the region’s profile as a destination. As Felicia Hart, director of Community Development and Tourism for Front Royal, put it, “Tourism is one of those black holes” where it’s very hard to draw a straight line between investment and return. Jenny Biche, who helps oversee the TRT, said members will be formally surveyed at the end of the year in an attempt to measure results. But she said one benefit of the trail is that it enables small businesses, whose owners have neither much time nor social media expertise, to play on a bigger field.