Regions Southwest Virginia

Bike-trail video is part of new Blue Ridge campaign

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The two-minute video promotes the region’s designation as a Silver-Level Ride Center. Courtesy Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Catherine Fox knew she had a winner.

“It’s been rare for me, in the many years I’ve been in tourism, to show a video and have people clap,” says Fox, a vice president at Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, which promotes The Roanoke Valley to travelers. “When this started happening, I thought, ‘This is cool. This is great. People get it. People love it.’”

She’s talking about a two-minute video, “Be a Trailsetter,” that is part of a campaign to brand and promote Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) as America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital. The effort highlights the designation of VBR as a Silver-Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

One of only 15 Silver-Level Ride Centers in the world, and the only one in the eastern United States, VBR has more than 300 miles of bike trails ranging from easy meanders along the Roanoke River to challenging backcountry trails through the George Washington and Jefferson national forests.

The million-dollar promotional campaign is funded through lodging taxes. The effort is aimed at drawing more visitors to the region, generating more taxes and increasing tourism’s impact on the area economy, pegged at $850 million in 2017. The campaign’s  focus is not on one, or even a few, big attractions, but on the region as a destination for adventure and entertainment.

“We see this as a way to take us to the next product-development level,” Fox says. “When people come here once, you want to give them ample reason to come back.”

That trend is already happening. Explore Park, for example, has camping options from tent sites to air-conditioned yurts and super-size tents with queen-size beds. A zip line and ropes course should open this summer; a brewpub is scheduled for next year.

What’s really new about this campaign is an emphasis on involving locals in spreading the word. “It’s kind of an external campaign with an internal touch to it,” Fox says.

VBR is reaching out to economic development offices, businesses and colleges, “asking them to use these resources as a way to recruit talent, as a way to showcase the region, as a way to bring in prospective students, as a way to look at bringing in new business,” Fox says.

Anyone who wants to share the video or use it in promotions can find it and three shorter versions, plus other tools tied to the campaign, at the Be a Trailsetter website.

In addition to bike trails, the website highlights trails built around history, arts, local food, family fun, romance, and beer, wine and spirits. The video concentrates on bikes, but also works in the Taubman Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, the Roanoke Ballet, the Roanoke Symphony, the Roanoke Pinball Museum, craft beer, cocktails and guitars.

“Not everybody is necessarily interested in the outdoors,” Fox says. “And, you know, it does rain.”

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