Trails and loops

Rappahannock News - - WORK IN PROGRESS -

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.

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