Highland Tourism Strategic Plan Nears Completion
Monterey, Va – Highland County’s Tourism Strategic Plan first draft is now finished. That was the message from Carolyn Pohowsky, Chairperson of the Economic Development Authority tourism subcommittee, to the EDA members at their meeting earlier this month. The process to develop the plan began in the summer of 2009 and involved many county residents and the assistance of Virginia Tourism Corporation staff member Randy Rose. Carolyn Pohowsky talks about the start of the process and the committee members who made it possible.
“The committee is made up of myself, Liz Delahoussaye, Clay Hamilton, Brian O’baugh, Patti Reum, Kevin Wagner and Lorraine White,” says Pohowsky. “We were charged with the task of developing Highland counties first strategic tourism plan. A series of meeting were held beginning in September of 2009 and culminating with tonight’s first draft.”
Ms. Pohowsky goes on to talk about Highland County tourism history.
“Much of Highland County’s tourism has been event driven,” she says, “and while the enormous success of many of our events would be the envy of most communities, putting all of our eggs in one basket is not the best plan to develop a sustainable tourism industry.”
The Highland County website, developed by the Chamber of Commerce beginning in the late 90’s, provided early evidence on changing trends in county tourism.
“What we found back in 1999, was that in the past, most visitors to Highland County came for a specific event,” she says. “Now they’re interested in coming back to Highland County just for a time to relax, a time to get away from urban communities if that’s where they lived. Having the website introduced people to opportunities in Highland County that went above and beyond our events.”
The increase in the number of county lodging facilities shows that more people are visiting the area. Pohowsky says there are currently 30 lodging facilities in the county with another four recently approved by the planning commission.
“Fourteen years ago, we had 9 lodging facilities,” she says, “that’s a tremendous jump in businesses, so for anyone who thinks tourism is not a growth industry in Highland County, there are a number of businesses that prove that is simply not the case.”
One of the recommendations of the plan is the approval of a lodging tax in the county. This should generate some revenue both for the county and to support increased marketing of the county tourism industry. The plan goes on to say that Highland County has assets and resources that if properly managed and marketed should grow the tourism industry beyond one that is driven by events.
Ms. Pohowsky also emphasized that the Chamber of Commerce would not be able to continue providing tourism marketing unless additional funds become available.
EDA members and Board of Supervisors member David Blanchard recommended that a preliminary budget be included with the plan that would show how much revenue would be expected from the lodging tax as well as an explanation of how a portion of this money would be spent to promote tourism. The EDA hopes to approve a revised Tourism Strategic Plan and send it on to the Board of Supervisors for its approval later this year.