Smyth County received four awards at the fourth annual Celebrate Tourism Summit held in Wytheville, VA. Friends of Southwest Virginia hosted the Southwest Virginia Tourism Awards Ceremony to celebrate the outstanding work within the tourism industry in Southwest Virginia.
The Chamber of Commerce of Smyth County was honored to receive the “Best Visitor Center” Award for their work at the H.L. Bonham Tourism Center. Since taking over the center two years ago, they have transformed the center into a thriving community hub, workspace and worked to expand the offerings to tourists and guests in the area.
“Tourism is a huge piece of economic development for our county,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Sarah Gillespie. “Since we have taken over operations at the center, we have worked to spread awareness about all the center has to offer and bring in more community members and tourists. When guests come through the door, they will be greeted with friendly, knowledgeable staff that work to send visitors to local restaurants, businesses, and attractions.”
The Chamber has done this through increasing the number of events hosted at the H.L. Bohman Center, opening a giftshop inside, and providing the most up-to-date brochures and information.
Perhaps the award Gillespie is most proud of though, is the one her co-work, Shannon Ford received. Ford who is the Tourism and Events Coordinator at the Chamber of Commerce of Smyth County was awarded “Visitor Center Employee of the Year “and recognized for her passion and hard work to promote tourism in Smyth County. Ford has always had a love for the Virginia is for Lovers “LOVE” signs and is often the mastermind behind the ever changing LOVE sign at the H.L. Bonham Tourism Center.
“A huge part of keeping those who visit the H.L. Bonham Visitor Center in Smyth County, is finding out their interest and plugging them into all the things we have to offer,” said Ford.
The Chamber of Commerce works in partnership with Smyth County Tourism Director, Amanda Livingston, to get brochures and information on the county into the hands of people visiting the area.
One such Smyth County visitor guide went on to receive the “Best Brochure” Award at the Celebrate Tourism Summit.
“I’m so proud that Smyth County is being honored in this way,” said Livingston, “These awards are a recognition of the hard work we have put in over the past few years – and by “we” I mean the team effort across the board – including the Chamber and Tourism Association; public entities and private businesses; the county and the towns.”
As if all of this wasn’t enough to show the huge strides Smyth County is making in tourism, a new local business, Marion Outdoors received “Best New Tourism Business.” Marion Outdoors is located in Downtown Marion and is a full-service outfitter that is geared toward serving the Appalachian Hikers in Smyth County. Owner Andrew Livingston, also operates a hiker hostel attached to the store called the Merry Inn.