Richmond’s tourism marketers want everyone to know what’s brewing in RVA. The folks at Richmond Region Tourism are doing their level best to spread the word that Richmonders like beer—and we’re pretty darn good at making it, too. Good beer. Lots of good beer.
RVA’s storied heritage reaches back to the beginnings of our country. Over time it has fostered a thriving artistic culture that has garnered notoriety across the globe. It has made the James River its centerpiece, now a triumph of ecological renovation. And in recent years, craft beer has become part of the Richmond story.
As the primary marketer of RVA’s tourism trade, Richmond Region Tourism is making a serious push to leverage the River City’s burgeoning profile as a craft beer destination. And with no shortage of artisan brewers hanging their wort-soaked hats in Greater Richmond (Hardywood Park, Legend, Center of the Universe, Strangeways, and Ardent—just to name a few), this may be the easiest job Richmond Region Tourism ever took on. Because, not only does beer pretty much sell itself, but Richmond Region Tourism is taking an inspired—and efficient—tack to get the word out there.
“We’re encouraging locals to act as ambassadors for the Richmond region. No matter your profession, we are all members of the tourism community,” says Katherine O’Donnell, vice president of community relations at Richmond Region Tourism. “Richmond is really coming into its own as a beer-lover’s destination, and we want everyone to know they can be tour guides themselves to friends and family who are visiting from out of town.”
And what better way to welcome a guest than with a pint of the local?
To that end, Richmond Region Tourism teamed up with Center of the Universe Brewing Co. in Ashland to promote a special tourism-themed offering called Thirsty Tour Guide, a re-branded version of COTU’s popular IPA, Pocahoptas. The launch coincided with the start of National Travel & Tourism Week, which was hosted in May, with the pale ale found throughout the month wherever COTU brand beer was sold.
With the locals on board (and let’s be honest, beer isn’t exactly a hard sell to Richmonders), the focus turns to attracting outsiders to spend their time (and their money) here in the metro region. Fortunately for Richmond Region Tourism, they’ve already got the wind to their back in that regard. The past several years have seen a marked increase in the region’s national profile as a tourist destination, from RVA’s coronation by Outside magazine as the “Best River Town in America” in 2012, to being named on Frommer’s “Top Destinations” in the world in 2014. And it seems that, whenever Richmond’s name comes up, craft brewing always manages to garner some measure of recognition in the discussion.
And Richmond Region Tourism wants to keep it that way.
“When travel writers visit, we make sure craft beer is on the itinerary. In May, we hosted a half a dozen journalists and bloggers from various outlets to explore the Richmond Region. Part of their experience here included brewery visits with Richmond Brewery Tours,” says public relations manager Erin Bagnell. “Earlier this year, we hosted a writer from a national culinary publication whose focus was solely on the craft beer scene in the region. We’re definitely getting noticed.”
Plans for the future involve working with the local craft beer community to build a Richmond Region craft beer visitor experience. Part of that effort will include developing a mobile-friendly map, similar to that of the Richmond Liberty Trail, to allow visitors to easily locate the area’s breweries and other craft beer hot spots. As awareness of Richmond’s hoppy awesomeness grows regionally and nationally, Richmond Region Tourism hopes the community’s involvement will grow with it. For more, watch the Richmond Region Tourism’s craft beer video on VisitRichmondVa.com.