Region seeks to capitalize on Civil War anniversary

History brings thousands of visitors to the Greater Richmond region each year, and local officials are hoping that the confluence of two significant historical milestones this year will help attract even more.

Members of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission (RRPDC) discussed how the region plans to capitalize on the 150th anniversary of the start of the four-year Civil War this year – a milestone anniversary that coincides with Henrico County's 400th anniversary.

Henrico and other localities in the region are home to a plethora of Civil War battlefields, museums, monuments and parks – all of which could attract more tourists than normal this year.

In a recent survey of tourists, nearly 70 percent of respondents stated that visiting historic sites was one of their primary activities while visiting the Richmond area, while just more than 62 percent cited visiting Civil War Sites as one of their primary activities.

“Civil War history is a major part of our brand [as a region]” said Jack Berry, CEO and president of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (RMCVB).

The RMCVB has gone to great lengths in recent months to advertise the Richmond region as well as the Civil War anniversary to people living outside the area.

For example, the RMCVB ran a full-page ad in USA Today this past April that appeared in copies of the national newspaper distributed throughout the Eastern United States, a region that accounts for about 68 percent of the Richmond area’s visitors.

Additionally, the RMCVB bought ad space near the Smithsonian exit of the DC Metro earlier this year to advertise the region.

Another key component in the Richmond area’s efforts to capitalize on the Civil War’s 150th anniversary is Civil War Trails, a company based in Richmond that maintains Civil War landmarks in the states of Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania. In the state of Virginia alone, Civil War Trails, which traces it origins to 1994, operates and preserves 394 Civil War sites located in 95 jurisdictions throughout the state.

Here in Henrico, county officials have made their own efforts to organize in advance of the increased tourism expected not only for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, but also for the 400th anniversary of Henrico County.

Last September, Henrico opened up its new tourism information center at the Dabbs House Museum on Nine Mile Road to aid visitors to the county from both near and far. The county also is hosting or co-hosting a number of commemorative events throughout the year.

“We recently had a few people visit Henrico from as far away as [the country of] Malta,” said Tuckahoe District Supervisor Pat O’Bannon, who represents Henrico on the RRPDC.

For details about the Civil War anniversary as well as other destinations in the area, visit http://www.visitRichmondVA.com, http://www.OntoRichmond.com, http://www.Henrico400th.com or http://www.HistoricRoute1.com.
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