Don’t underestimate tourism

Published 8:52 am Friday, October 21, 2011

Western Tidewater isn’t a tourist hotbed by any stretch, but that doesn’t mean out-of-towners won’t come here to spend money.

We were reminded of the economic impact of tourism last week when Gov. Bob McDonnell released an annual state report on the topic. By the state’s estimate, visitors spent $58 million in Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County during 2010, up 8.2 percent from the prior year. That’s not chump change, and the fact that visitor dollars increased during a tough economy makes it even more impressive.

If tourism initiatives by Franklin-Southampton Economic Development and the Southampton County Historical Society are successful, tourism could have an even greater economic impact.

A community doesn’t need an amusement park or an oceanfront to attract visitors. So-called “heritage tourism” is big these days. People will drive to check out places with interesting histories, such as the Nat Turner slave rebellion. It’s a painful chapter in Southampton County’s history, but it is a fascinating story nonetheless. A planned driving tour of key sites during the rebellion would attract history buffs from all over.