Virginia Is For Lovers?

What do you think people imagine when they consider vacationing in Virginia?

When you think of vacationing in Maine, do you conjure up images of lobsters and unspoiled rocky coastlines? Does Albuquerque match up with hot air balloon festivals, Montana make you think of healthy outdoor activities in wide-open spaces, and Nevada bring forth images of gambling and good times?

Back in 1968, tourism officials in Virginia worked with an advertising firm in Richmond (known then as the Martin Agency) to develop a new slogan. That brand has been used ever since - Virginia Is For Lovers. It provided flexibility, allowing the focus to shift to "Virginia Is For History Lovers," "Virginia Is For Beach Lovers," etc. At the time, the slogan was especially appealing:1

Given the tenor of the times, the roll-out of Virginia is for Lovers appealed to younger consumers who were the market of the future. Virginia is for Lovers debuted simultaneously with love-ins, Erich Segal's popular book Love Story, peace demonstrations and of course - Woodstock. The first ad featuring the slogan ran in Bride's Magazine in 1969 and a new image for Virginia was launched.

Virginia Is for Lovers logo, for tourism campaign launched in 1969
"Virginia Is for Lovers" logo, for tourism campaign launched in 1969
Source: WAMU Radio,
Is Virginia Really for Lovers?

Virginia tourism managers feared at the turn of the 21st Century that too many potential visitors were concluding that Virginia was not special enough to be worth a visit. Nine other states were committing more funding to attract tourists and their discretionary expenses. The "Virginia is for Lovers" advertising campaign used for decades had worked well, but by the year 2000 was perceived primarily as an invitation for couples to visit Virginia for romance.2

To attract families with children and adults looking for more than romance, the Virginia Tourism Corporation hired consultants to identify a new theme. The objective was to establish a stronger "brand identity" for Virginia, so more people would choose Virginia as their vacation destination. Ideally, by 2012, spending by travellers would grow from $13 billion annually to $41 billion.

James River at the Blue Ridge Parkway
James River at the Blue Ridge Parkway

The consultant's report determined Virginia had a "split personality" image. That made it harder to define why someone should make Virginia their vacation destination, particularly when North Carolina was so close. Dichotomies about Virginia included:3

Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, in Norfolk harbor
Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, in Norfolk harbor

Not surprisingly, Virginia's beaches and historic sites were identified as the two elements that made the state "special" and worthy of a visit. However, there are beaches and historic sites in neighboring states as well, so a tourism campaign must overcome the perception that Virginia is "as good, but no better than others" for a trip.4

In the end, the consultants recommended that the state tourist officials relaunch advertising that expands upon (rather than replaces) the traditional "Virginia is for Lovers" theme until potential visitors think of "simple goodness" when considering a trip to Virginia. For about a year, starting in 2002, the contractors recommended emphasizing
Whatever you love in a vacation, you can find it in Virginia by demonstrating that people will have a genuine good time in Virginia - it can be fun, interesting, wholesome, relaxing.
Later, advertising should focus on
Visiting Virginia is a genuine and enriching experience by demonstrating that people will experience a genuine good time - Virginia is welcoming, fun, interesting, wholesome, relaxing.

The state tourism managers followed the advice of the consultants. For the 40th anniversary of the slogan in 2009, the Virginia Tourism Corporation adopted a plan5 with the theme Live Passionately in order to attract "More People, Staying Longer, Spending More Money." Target audiences were defined as:
- Educated Female
- Baby Boomer
- Annual household income (HHI) of $75,000+
- Married, single, or empty nester
- Age 35+
- Passionate about travel and travel experiences
- Passionate about reconnecting with family and friends
Live Passionately

By 2011, domestic travelers in Virginia spent $20.4 billion. Total domestic travel and tourism output in Virginia, including direct, indirect and induced output, was $34.1 billion. Northern Virginia benefitted from being near to the national capital, with its two major airports. Nearly 50% of the tourism-related jobs were generated in the five jurisdictions receiving the greatest asmount of domestic travel expenditures:6

Arlington County ($2.7 billion)
Fairfax County ($2.6 billion)
Loudoun County ($1.5 billion)
Virginia Beach City ($1.2 billion)
Henrico County ($712.9 million)

Domestic Travel Expenditures in Virginia by Industry Sector - 2011
Domestic Travel Expenditures in Virginia by Industry Sector - 2011
Source: The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel On Virginia Counties - 2011 (p.12)
Domestic Travel-Generated Employment in Virginia by Industry Sector - 2011
Domestic Travel-Generated Employment in Virginia by Industry Sector - 2011
Source: The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel On Virginia Counties - 2011 (p.14)

Biggest category of spending by travelers was for food/drink, if "transportation" is split between automobiles and public transportation (air, bus, rail, boat/ship transportation, taxicab, and limousine service). Foodservice category generated over 80,000 jobs, and a much higher percentage of travel-related jobs (39%) than any other since restaurants are labor-intensive. In contrast, automobile travel spending included cost of gas, generating a big dollar number for for domestic travel expenditures - but not many jobs in Virginia. According to a report generated for the Virginia Tourism Corporation:7

In 2011, Virginia's travel industry continued to be the fifth largest employer among all non-farm industry sectors in Virginia... Without these jobs generated by domestic travel, Virginia's 2011 unemployment rate of 6.2 percent would have been 4.8 percentage points higher, or the equivalent of 11.1 percent of the labor force.

The same report determined how the different levels of government benefitted in tax revenues. For every dollar spent by domestic travelers in Virginia, 12.9 cents went to taxes. The Federal government collected 6.4 cents for individual and corporate income taxes, employment taxes, gasoline excise taxes, and airline ticket taxes. Virginia collected 3.8 cents in state tax receipts from state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. Local city/county governments collected 2.7 cents in local sales and property tax revenues.8

The "Virginia Is For Lovers" campaign returned in 2012, with installation of LOVE artwork (16' wide by 8' foot tall) at Welcome Centers on highways at traveling exhibits installed temporarily at visitor centers across the state.

Building a tourism campaign around the theme of love has its challenges. During the 150th anniversary of the Civil War ("sesquicentennial"), commemorating battles required some artful adjustment of the theme. The Fiscal Year 2012 marketing plan recognized that couples spend money, but there was more potential revenue in visits by families:9

  • Couples do not spend as much as families in Virginia, but there are more of them
  • While attracting new family travel, Virginia must remain appealing to couples in order to sustain this vital audience
Domestic Travel-Generated Tax Revenue
in Virginia by Level of Government - 2011
Domestic Travel-Generated Tax Revenue in Virginia by Level of Government - 2011
Source: The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel On Virginia Counties - 2011 (p.20)

LOVE artwork at I-95 Visitor Center near Fredericksburg, 2012
LOVE artwork at I-95 Visitor Center near Fredericksburg, 2012

References

1. "History of Virginia is for Lovers slogan," Virginia Tourism Corporation, http://www.virginia.org/pressroom/attachments/Virginia%20is%20for%20Lovers.pdf (last checked November 24, 2012)
2. Virginia Tourism Corporation, Positioning Research Executive Summary, http://www.vatc.org/advertising/PositionResearchexecsummary.htm (last checked February 10, 2002)
3. Hall & Partners USA, Inc. WORK, Inc., presentation to Virginia Tourism Corporation, Slide 12, http://www.vatc.org/advertising/positionresearch/positionresearch_files/frame.htm (last checked February 10, 2002)
4. Hall & Partners USA, Inc. WORK, Inc., Slide 19, Slide 22
5. "FY09 Marketing Plan," Virginia Tourism Corporation, http://www.vatc.org/administration/documents/VTCMktPlan09.pdf (last checked November 15, 2008)
6. "The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel On Virginia Counties - 2011," Virginia Tourism Corporation, August 2012, p.2, pp.24-25 http://www.vatc.org/uploadedFiles/Research/2011EconomicImpactofDomesticTravelonVirginiaandLocalities.pdf (last checked November 24, 2012)
7. "The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel On Virginia Counties - 2011," Virginia Tourism Corporation, p.14
8. "The Economic Impact of Domestic Travel On Virginia Counties - 2011," Virginia Tourism Corporation, p.20
9. "Virginia Tourism Corporation strategic Marketing Plan FY12," Virginia Tourism Corporation, p.10, http://www.vatc.org/administration/documents/VTCMktPlan12.pdf (last checked November 24, 2012

Aquia Church, in Stafford County
Aquia Church, in Stafford County


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