Trail To Put Travel Planning Into Kids’ Hands
Valley Website Designed To Attract Young People’s Interest
QUICKSBURG — In an effort to get more people to visit the Valley on overnight family vacations, businesses from Harrisonburg to Hagerstown, Md., are teaming up to put the power in kids’ hands.
That’s right — kids. The Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail, which will debut this fall, is designed to help children of all ages steer their family vacations by creating their own itineraries.
The idea is to get families to come here and stay longer with resources specifically geared toward family-friendly vacations. A mobile website will list dozens of places kids should have on their bucket lists, founders say, and will provide itinerary-making tools.
“We want to encourage families to be more than day trippers,” said Nancy Craun, owner and founder of Go Blue Ridge Travel, one of the main partners working to create the trail. “To actually stay overnight. And the way to encourage that is to make it easier for them to find various activities.”
The trail’s creators also include Shenandoah Caverns, Massanutten Resort, Bryce Resort, Great Country Farms, The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, The Family Drive-In Theatre, the Shenandoah Discovery Museum and Country Inn and Suites.
In August, the trail partners received a $25,000 Marketing Leverage Grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation. That money is being put toward creating a substantial online presence, including filming an informational video and creating an avenue for kids to post their own videos about their trips for other children to see. The main partners of the trail will contribute an additional $115,000 to advertise it, Craun said, focusing mainly on the Internet because of kids’ tendency to be active online.
“So, parents can say, ‘Hey, let’s do something this weekend. What can we do?’ And the information is at their fingertips,” said Allison Dugan, marketing director for Shenandoah Caverns.
The website is expected to go live in mid-November, Craun said, and there will be months of fine-tuning, including seeing how kids respond to the ideas, before a major launch in April.
One of the features of the mobile site, Dugan said, is that users will be able to see nearby trail sites pop up as they’re traveling down the highway.
There are countless kid-friendly activities throughout the Shenandoah Valley, Craun said. But many people from out of town just don’t know how to find them. Many of those activities and events that will be featured on the Kids Trail site are not paid tourist attractions but free, outdoor activities, such as moderate Appalachian Trail hikes that are easy to do with a few kids in tow.
With a site that maps out precisely where to go and what to do there, Craun and the other creators of the trail hope that many of the day trippers from the Washington, D.C., area will find good reasons to stay overnight, and maybe even longer.
“We look at the trail development as a way to connect the dots for travelers,” Dugan said. “We find that travel planning is an individual thing, and people do it in many different ways. So they might call and request a guide, or surf the Internet, or look at websites like the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association, but it’s hard to piece together a cohesive itinerary depending on the different ages of your children.”
Ultimately, if the kids trail brings more people to the Valley and keeps them here longer, it could be beneficial for locals throughout the area.
“People don’t realize that for every $1 of marketing put into tourism, $5 is earned,” Craun said. “And for the Shenandoah Valley, I mean, tourism is huge. It’s a huge economic impact, so if we can convince parents that rather than having to get in a plane and go to Disney, if we can convince them that it’s so easy to come out here, there’s so many different types of accommodations available.”
Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org