There are a lot of tourism-related business opportunities, a representative of the Virginia Tourism Corporation said during a workshop last Thursday in Gloucester.
Speaking to a small group of business leaders at Whitcomb Lodge in Beaverdam Park, Sandra F. Tanner, tourism development specialist for VTC, first asked the businessmen if they represent a business supported by tourism. Among tourism business opportunities are canoe rentals and tours, wineries/vineyards, tea rooms, campgrounds, heritage sites, shopping and others, she said.
In addition, lots of ancillary businesses can tap into the tourism market, Tanner said, ranging from food/drink distributors and plumbers to doggy daycare, shuttle services and car rentals.
"Tourism is small business," Tanner said, as 98 percent of Virginia’s economy is small businesses, many having 25 or fewer workers. VTC’s mission statement is to bring more people to Virginia, get them staying in the state longer, and spending more money while they’re here, she said.
VTC sees tourism as extremely important for the state, Tanner said, and plans are in the works for capturing niche markets through product development. For example, there are a Tobacco Heritage Trail and a Beaches to Bluegrass Trail, as well plans for a Agritourism/Artisan Trail.
In trying to gain more tourists—or other customers—Tanner said it is important for businesses to identify the decision makers and those who influence them. It used to be that most shopping decisions were handled by women, she said, but in more recent years men and women share in those decisions.
Knowing that, Tanner said that businesses need to appeal both to the person who makes the decision to buy a product or go on vacation and the person who influences him—who actually might be calling the shots. Work schedules don’t always allow the decision maker and the influencer to meet with contractors, Tanner said, so using techniques like brochures that can be reviewed later are a good tool.
All businesses should have a marketing plan. "This can be your road map to success," Tanner said.
The marketing plan should have a mission statement, include research on the viability of such a business, have market analysis of the competition and demand for the project or service, and set goals and objectives.
Businessmen should also have "an elevator speech," Tanner said, which is simply a very short introduction to get your name out and to possibly pick up a job later.