“Unshackling Richmond” (News & Features, May 6) failed to mention key facts about how the Richmond region is marketed as a historical tourism destination. As the official destination-marketing organization for the Richmond region (the city and Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and New Kent counties), the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau successfully leverages history as a large part of what we have to offer to visitors. The bureau actively promotes the region as a historic yet vibrant destination to multiple target audiences: tourists, tour operators and meeting and convention planners.
In 2007, the bureau launched the History creative ad campaign. Since then, the History message has consistently appeared on print ads, airport bin ads, billboards, online advertising promotions, collateral materials and, most recently, on our official tourism Web site, VisitRichmondVa.com. The consistent deployment of this creative campaign counters any concerns that Richmond's history branding is not reaching outside the city limits. In fact, a visitor study conducted just two months ago reveals that Richmond's history message is resonating with travelers.
Secondly, we agree that the Civil War story presents a significant opportunity to focus visitor attention on Richmond as a tourism destination. The article's assertion that “the city lacks an articulate plan to capitalize on the expected tourism surge” is false. The Richmond Region Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, formed 18 months ago by the bureau, area Civil War attractions and representatives from the area's city and county governments, developed a comprehensive marketing plan in 2008 outlining important strategies to position Richmond as ground zero for Civil War sesquicentennial tourism.
This comprehensive marketing plan has already shown success. During a 2009 signature conference, America on the Eve of the Civil War, at the University of Richmond, House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell announced to the audience of more than 2,000 that the Richmond Civil War 150th committee was one of only four recipients of initial sesquicentennial tourism marketing grants. The development of a comprehensive Richmond region Civil War sesquicentennial Web site — a key component of the committee's marketing plan — was the foundation for this grant.
We would encourage the staff at Style Weekly and its readers to visit VisitRichmondVa.com and review our 2009—2010 marketing plan, which provides numerous examples of how we market the Richmond region as a destination rich with historical assets spanning more than 400 years.
John F. Berry
President and Chief Executive
Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau