By Avery Shackelford
Staff Writer, The Capital News Service
Del. Chris Peace, D-Hanover, announced the completed expansion of a major heritage trail to include 10 new sites, which he said he hopes will draw more tourists to Virginia.
The expansion of the Road to Revolution Virginia Heritage Trail is the result of Peace’s bill passed last year that allowed the trail to double in size to include Mount Vernon, James Monroe’s birthplace, Montpelier and Monticello.
Peace and other members of the Legislative Tourism Caucus said they believed encouraging visitors to come to heritage sites by making them part of a tour would strengthen the state’s tourism industry as a whole.
Heritage travelers spend on average $50 more than leisure travelers, according to 2011 data collected on Virginia tourism.
Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, co-chairman of the caucus, said that history was the number one reason tourists came to Virginia.
Keam said that after the success of the movie “Lincoln,” which was filmed in Richmond, the state had become the undisputed place in the country for tourists interested in history.
With its rich history and many landmarks, Virginia has become a draw for filmmakers to come and share stories for millions across the nation and the world, said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Cooperation, who is in charge of promoting the state as a location for shooting movies and television productions.
The goal of the trail expansion is to go beyond focusing on Virginia history to focus on the history of the whole East Coast, said Jack Berry, president and CEO of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (RMCVB).
“Virginia’s history is the U.S.’s history,” Berry said. “It all began here.”
RMCVB is one of the trail consortium’s partners and markets to travelers, event planners and tour operators to increase tourism in the Richmond area. Two of the new trail sites, the Wilton House Museum and the John Marshall House, are in Richmond.
The expansion of the trail, and a new website and brochure were made possible by a federal highway grant through the Virginia Department of Transportation, which provided 80/20 in matching funds.
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