Heritage and Cultural Tourism

Telling Your Community's Story

An Introduction to Heritage Tourism

Tourism is the world’s leading industry, and what we call heritage and cultural tourism is its fastest-growing segment. Today’s national and international travelers look for fulfilling travel destinations that provide authentic historical, cultural, and natural experiences of an area or region. To be able to provide exciting and competitive packages, travel-related organizations can maximize their strengths by forming public and private partnerships within communities and regions. Such partnerships leverage resources to develop and promote programs that meet travelers’ needs for enriching, integrated experiences.

Now is the time for Virginia to join forces through local and regional tourism partnerships. In 2007, Virginia will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown, and an additional eight million tourists are expected to travel to the Commonwealth between now and that time. In 2007, the eyes of the world will look to Virginia as we commemorate the founding of a new nation, and communities across Virginia will have the opportunity to tell their stories. It is time to get ready!

The Department of Historic Resources' (DHR) Tourism Handbook is designed to take you through the process of developing a heritage tourism program that meets the needs and tourism goals of your community or region. The handbook explains the benefits of heritage tourism to communities. By understanding heritage tourism and the typical traveler, you will be poised to form public and private tourism partnerships and to develop tourism programs that highlight your community’s defining historic, cultural, and natural resources. Critical to your efforts, too, will be evaluating your program once it is in place.

DHR and the Virginia Tourism Corporation can aid communities in using their historic resources in successful tourism programs. DHR, through its regional office system, works closely with communities to help them achieve their economic and cultural goals using their historic assets, including facilitating local and regional partnerships that reap the benefits of successful tourism programs and strengthen community vitality. Those benefits include:

The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), the state’s tourism office, is dedicated to making Virginia a premiere destination and to helping localities enhance what they can offer visitors. Staff at VTC can help communities achieve their tourism goals through aid in tourism development, grants programs, marketing and advertising, and an in-depth knowledge of tourism facts and figures and visitor demographics. Over the past several years, working in consortia or in various partnerships, DHR, VTC, the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA), and the Virginia Association of Museums have presented conferences and training sessions that have provided learning opportunities about cultural tourism development from a community perspective.

The VCA encourages Virginia arts organizations to explore partnership opportunities in cultural tourism development. Staff members at VCA can advise arts organizations on how best to participate in such efforts and how to seek funding for these programs.

Together DHR, VTC, and VCA are poised to work with communities to help them develop a cultural legacy and to tell their stories to Virginia’s visitors—an investment that will yield many dividends for years to come.