The Commonwealth of Virginia, birthplace of America and the first American colony of the British Empire, came to Australia in a big way this week – with much emphasis on the travel industry.
Virginia was established by the British in 1607, in the days when William Shakespeare was still alive.
Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, has just returned there after visiting Sydney and Melbourne (and Japan, Korea and Singapore) on a tourism and trade mission. A reception for travel industry, media and tourism professionals was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney on Monday, with guests left in no doubt about the many charms and attractions of Virginia.
Left to right: Matt Fletcher, Director Brand USA Australia and New Zealand, Governor McAullife, First Lady, Svetlana Monastyrsky, PR Manager Brand USA, Lisa Dunn, Gate 7
Virginia extends from the mountains to the sea. You can drive across it in about five hours. Virginian wine is exceptionally good – and so is Virginian craft beer. Both were present in Sydney as guests learned of the many and varied offerings available in Virginia.
A draw for return tickets to Virginia, with carriage on United Airlines, was won by Tuan Chung, Corporate Consultant with Traveledge of Young Street Sydney.
Cheers! Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe with Peter Needham sampling glasses of Virginia red wine
The Governor’s entourage included his wife, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, and President and Chief Executive of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Rita McClenny. McClenny said the delegation met with Excite Holidays, Trafalgar and Flight Centre. Ways of packaging Virginia for the Australian market were discussed.
McClenny said Virginia received 1.7 million visitors a year. Canada is the number one international market, then Britain, France, Germany, Brazil and China, the last being the fastest-growing market.
Tuan Chung, Corporate Consultant with Traveledge of Young Street Sydney, wins prize of a trip to Virginia
Many people visit Virginia without realising it. Washington Dulles International Airport is located in Chantilly, Virginia. This makes Virginia an essential addition to any trip to Washington DC or the East Coast. Home to eight US presidents, Virginia offers historical destinations such as Jamestown and Williamsburg; must-see sites like Arlington National Cemetery, George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon or Monticello, the primary plantation home of Thomas Jefferson.
Governor McAuliffe addresses guests with Sydney Harbour Bridge in background
Governor McAuliffe said Australians tended to take 21-day trips. “You can come to our region, see our nation’s capital, and all those historic sites like the White House. You can travel all over Virginia and see our original historic sites and the birthplaces of our presidents, golf, go to the beach – you can do it all in Virginia.”
McClenny said Virginia viewed tourism as a growth industry in terms of creating jobs. “In Virginia it’s a USD 24 billion business. We also see travel as an essential part of people’s lives. We know for Australians there is that one major trip a year. Because of the vacation and the leave time that you all have, people will see the US more and more as that one big trip that they want to take. So it’s Europe versus the US. The US is extremely popular now for travelling Australians. Virginia’s assets are ideally situated. History, national parks – we have 36 state parks.”
McClellan said about 100,000 Australians a year visited the US “Capital Region” (Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia) “and I would say, conservatively 25% spend time in Virginia”.
History is one of the main reasons people choose Virginia. It was the original British colony and later played a major part in the American Civil War. Richmond, Virginia, was the capital of the Confederacy.
“Folks in Australia love history so we are just trying to talk a little about all the great history we have,” McAuliffe said. “We have 28 miles [45 kilometres] of ocean front, mountains, 350 golf courses; we’ve got everything you need. No need to go to any of those other states!”
Scenic drives are another very popular activity for visitors to Virginia. They include the Blue Ridge Highlands, Central Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads, Heart of Applachia, Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia has 14 major airports so visitors can just rent a car and drive away.
Written by Peter Needham