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VTC wins ‘WanderLove’ award

The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) received a national tourism industry award for its work on “WanderLove,” a recovery initiative that would unite Virginia’s tourism industry, generate immediate economic impact for the local communities and encourage visitors to travel safely.

VTC was recognized with the prestigious National Council of State Tourism Directors Mercury Award during the U.S. Travel Association’s annual Education Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference, held in Los Angeles, California. The program was recognized as best in category for Industry and Strategic Partnerships. With the annual Mercury Awards, the U.S. Travel Association recognizes state and territory tourism offices for excellence and creative accomplishment in travel marketing and promotion. Winning programs serve as models to foster imagination and innovation in the development of future destination programs. This is VTC’s 12th Mercury Award for its work promoting Virginia’s exceptional tourism assets and experiences.

“I am so proud of this well-deserved recognition for the WanderLove campaign,” Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation, said. “I truly believe that this campaign was essential to bringing back tourists who have pulled back their travel plans due to the health crisis and to helping drive immediate economic impact in our Virginia communities by inspiring travel across the commonwealth.”

The campaign was developed to position Virginia as the ultimate road trip destination to families and young couples who live in-state. Knowing there was concern with the safety of travel, VTC focused on five thematic pillars that highlighted low-risk travel experiences in Virginia: Scenic Drives, Outdoor Experiences, Small Towns, Hidden Gems and LOVEworks, a collection of 275 colorful, Instagrammable, roadside “LOVE” signs. These five pillars not only captured the unique aspects of a Virginia road-trip but also promoted low-risk experiences that travelers could enjoy from their car or socially distanced from large crowds.

To further amplify the WanderLove campaign, VTC provided a DMO Recovery Grant of $10,000 awarded to 90 Destination Marketing Organizations to create their own WanderLove content. Along with funding, partners had access to a toolkit with creative templates including digital banners, social posts, logos, news releases and blog outlines, enabling them to quickly customize creative and get back into the marketplace, while also unifying them like never before in a broad-reaching campaign.

Partner response to the WanderLove campaign was very positive.

“As a small rural DMO, I cannot stress the appreciation nor the value of the VTC grants to my destination. WanderLove turned out to be a great campaign for us, drawing visitors from all over the country,” a representative from Scott County Tourism said.

“For 15 consecutive weeks, the campaign helped our market achieve #1 hotel occupancy out of all the top 25 markets in the U.S., according to STR,” representatives from Norfolk & Virginia Beach said.

The Mercury Award judges were impressed by the program, noting: “The innovative and out-of-the-box creative thinking for this campaign was excellent and showed in the overall results. Providing toolkits and encouraging participation to the ultimately 90 partners was a strong way to push a campaign from just smart marketing to having an economic impact across the state.”

To learn more about WanderLove, visit https://www.virginia.org/wanderlove/.