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Stats show tourism growth in area

By Julia McCann
Special to The Farmville Herlad

Unemployment rates in The Herald’s three-county coverage area were lowest in Cumberland County, between 4.5 and 4.8 percent between July and October, followed by Buckingham County, which hovered between 4.8 and 5.1 percent unemployment during the same timeframe. According to the Virginia Employment Commission, unemployment rates were higher in Prince Edward County — as high as 6.1 percent in July and dipping only as low as 5.3 percent in September.

“Going back 10 or 11 years, there was a push to promote tourism in Southside Virginia,” said Todd Fortune, community development planner at the Farmville-based Commonwealth Regional Council. “The region lagged behind other parts of the state as far as tourism spending and there are a number of attractions in this region to promote.”

Fortune cited state parks, the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail and stops along the Lee’s Retreat route as potential tourist draws.

In addition, the area offers outdoor recreational activities, like kayaking or bike riding to the High Bridge. The visitfarmville.com website offers a list of dog-friendly shops and recreational activities in town, including the Friends of Farmville Dog Park, The Sarah Terry Trail, High Bridge Trail and even furniture stores like Green Front and Amish Originals.

Between 2014 and 2015, tourism employment was up 3 percent in Prince Edward. However, it was down 2.3 percent in Buckingham and slightly down in Cumberland at 0.5 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Gerald Spates

Gerald Spates

“The Town of Farmville is a great place to do business,” said longtime Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates. “We currently are in a great stage of growth in which we will have lots of new businesses opening in the next year, including three new hotels, apartments, a brewery, a bakery and other businesses.”

To further promote tourism, Prince Edward County, the Town of Farmville, the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Farmville Downtown Partnership teamed up on a cohesive effort dubbed “The Heart of Your Adventure.”

Travel-fueled tax receipts in Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward increased between 2014 and 2015, bringing revenue into the locality. In Prince Edward, there was a 6.3 percent increase in state tax receipts and a 6 percent increase in local tax receipts.

In Virginia, employment in the travel sector grew 2.8 percent from 216,949 in 2014 to 223,096 in 2015. The travel planning segment saw the most growth during that time period at 9.5 percent.

According to 2015 data from the U.S. Travel Association, 1 in 9 U.S. jobs depend on travel and tourism. Public transportation, auto transportation, lodging, food service, entertainment and recreation, general retail trade and travel planning are all opportunities for employment in the travel sector.

“These businesses will help to attract tourists to the area, along with new residents interested in the employment opportunities,” said Spates. “The Vice Presidential Debate attracted attention to our town and allowed many to see what a great place it is to live, which has certainly increased tourism and will continue to do so in years to come.”