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Pandemic impacts tourism

Tourism in the area is another one of the many aspects of life in 2020 that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce recently reported that tourism revenue for Prince Edward County reached $27.7 million in 2019. This total represented a 7.1% percent increase from 2018. Local tourism-supported jobs totaled 261, while local tourism-related taxes were $516,109.

Prince Edward County Public Information Officer Kate Pickett indicated that expectations for the county’s numbers in 2020 have been tempered.

“There is no doubt that COVID has affected our tourism revenues and our local economy as a whole,” she said.

But she noted efforts have been made to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact.

“Federal programs including (Paycheck Protection Program) and (Economic Injury Disaster Loans), state programs, including Rebuild Virginia and Bridge to Recovery, along with local programs, like the CARES Act allocations through the Industrial Development Authority, have helped to boost and support revenues and help businesses to get back on their feet during these challenging times,” she said.

Magi Van Eps, the tourism and visitor center coordinator in the Prince Edward County Office of Tourism, highlighted the top six draws to the county: High Bridge Trail State Park, Green Front Furniture, Sandy River Outdoor Adventures, Appomattox River Company, Downtown Farmville and the Moton Museum. 

She said that when she writes tourism-related grants, she uses the “hub-and-spoke” concept — High Bridge Trail State Park is the hub, and the other five draws are the spokes. 

One of the biggest draws in Buckingham County is the Historic Village at Lee Wayside, which typically holds seven events a year. Not this year, though.

“We’ve had one event out of seven at the historic village,” Historic Buckingham Inc. President Martha Louis said.

The one and only event the historic village hosted this year took place Saturday, Oct. 31. Louis said the Spooky Hollow Drive-Thru drew its biggest crowd ever.

“People were very generous with donations, which was wonderful,” she said. “And we had people coming from Scottsville, Farmville, Appomattox, all over.”

She noted Historic Buckingham Inc. takes COVID-19 seriously, so the village and museums will be shutting down by the end of November.

Cumberland County had encouraging news to report in terms of the 2020 tally of visitors to one of its biggest draws — Bear Creek Lake State Park.

Park Office Manager Laura Moss said attendance for January to October of 2020 totaled 74,569, which represented an increase of 506 people when compared to the same period in 2019.

“Our busiest quarter was the July-through-September timeframe where attendance increased by 8% compared to 2019,” Moss said.