By David Mikula and Kevin Costello
Abingdon, Virginia has always been a popular place for meetings and for weary travelers to find rest. Daniel Boone actually gave the town its original name of Wolf Hills more than 200 years ago. Years later, thousands of settlers passed through Abingdon on the Wilderness Road, also known as The Great Road, on their way across the Blue Ridge Mountains to settle the rest of the American frontier.
It seems natural that tourism would thrive in this historic, strategically located town. Especially when you consider more recent (within the last 100 years) additions to Abingdon like the Barter Theatre, the Virginia Creeper Trail and Heartwood – Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway. The truth is that to be successful in promoting tourism requires great effort, marketing expertise and teamwork.
Southeast Tourism Society has played a key role in Abingdon’s recent tourism resurgence. The staff at the Abingdon Convention and Visitors Bureau has benefitted from STS Marketing College and the continuing education opportunities at the Spring and Fall Conferences. Executive Director Kevin Costello had earned the coveted TMP designation from STS Marketing College prior to taking the helm at the Abingdon CVB three years ago. Since then he has encouraged three more staff members to attend.
The STS connection does not stop there. The extended team that the Abingdon CVB brought in conduct research and then launch a new branding strategy are all bound by the common thread of Southeast Tourism Society and STS Marketing College. Young Strategies, headed by Berkeley Young, conducted extensive research including visitor surveys, asset inventory, lodging analysis and more. Then Mikula-Harris, a branding and advertising agency in Roanoke that specializes in tourism, was hired to develop the brand strategy and subsequent website, ad campaign and visitor guide. Partnerships with Jack Rabbit Online Booking System and Chocklett Press soon followed. The combination of excellent research, a dynamic creative team and collaboration with outstanding leaders in the industry could only lead to great things for the Abingdon CVB.
At the 2014 STS Fall Forum in October, the Abingdon CVB won a prestigious Shining Example Award as the Tourism Office of the Year, Category One, Budget < $2 million. While we, as co-authors of this blog, would like to say that the award recognizes brilliant leadership and extraordinary creative work, it really encompasses much more. It’s truly a testament to the power of the educational and networking opportunities available with Southeast Tourism Society.
David Mikula is President and co-founder of Mikula Harris. Kevin Costello is the Executive Director of the Abingdon, Virginia CVB.