By Macy Pressley
Michael Moore has always enjoyed his job as wine trail guide with Top Shelf Transportation. He said the job is about more than wine.
“I get people anything they need,” Moore said. “I’m like a rolling concierge.”
Moore, 71, works in the Monticello Wine Trail region, which ecompasses parts of Albermarle and Nelson counties and contains about 35 wineries. It is widely considered to be one of Virginia’s top wine regions. Moore has worked in the industry for the past seven years, after he retired as a graphic designer. But, in mid-March, his tours were cancelled due to Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close non-essential businesses and ban gatherings of 10 or more to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“I guess I’m out of a job,” Moore said. “The whole industry has come to a screeching halt.”
Moore is not alone, and COVID-19 has not just impacted jobs in the state’s tourism industry. Since Northam’s order, there has been a sharp spike in unemployment rates, with 306,143 Virginians filing for unemployment insurance in the past three weeks.
Moore is not worried about his finances, but many people in the tourism industry are not as lucky.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Some of the bigger wineries, they’ve got a cushion, but their workers are out of work. And it’s all part-time workers.”
Travel spending in Virginia plummeted after stay-at-home orders were announced around the country, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Spending was $521 million in Virginia the first week of March, but dipped to $119 million by the end of the month. Compared to last year’s numbers, travel spending in the state was down 78% the last week in March. Tourism is a major source of revenue for Virginia, pulling in $26 billion in 2018, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp. The industry accounted for 234,000 jobs that year.
Andrew Cothern, communications manager for VTC, said Virginia attracts so many tourists because it has something for everyone.
“Virginia has a lot of different travel opportunities, whether the traveler’s interested in history or outdoor recreation or dining,” Cothern said. “There’s a lot of different reasons why people want to come to Virginia.”
Cothern said that COVID-19 has changed everything.
“With the COVID-19 crisis going on, a lot of people are not traveling, obviously, and it’s closed down a lot of business,” Cothern said.
The businesses hardest hit will be the ones that usually attract large crowds, he said. This might include museums, theaters, parks, restaurants and wineries. VTC, and others in the tourism industry, are working to make some of these experiences virtual and earn a little revenue. For example, the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton is streaming recorded versions of the troupe’s 2020 performances. Tickets start at $10.
Moore, however, cannot work from home. He said companies like the one he works for may be in jeopardy.
“There will be some wine tour companies that will go out of business,” he said. “They’ve all got leases and cars and insurance they still have to pay for, even when they’re not touring.”
Large scale events have been affected, like the ones produced by Venture Richmond, a nonprofit that organizes events in downtown Richmond. Venture Richmond canceled Dominion Riverock, one of its largest festivals held on Brown’s Island. Stephen Lecky, director of events for the organization, said losing the festival was a disappointment to everyone, including vendors. Lecky said the festival draws 100,000 to 150,000 people annually and they contract with hundreds of musicians, athletes and other vendors.
“All these folks, food vendors and traveling vendors included, will not have this event and it will impact them financially,” Lecky said.
Lecky said that once a festival is cancelled potential revenue is gone.
“That’s $2 to $3 million that we won’t be seeing,” he said, meaning the city, musicians and vendors.
Lecky also is concerned about Friday Cheers, a weekly concert series that Venture Richmond organizes. The event typically draws 3,000 to 5,000 people to Belle Isle between May and June, Lecky said. Venture Richmond has cancelled events through May and hopes to reschedule those musicians for later in the summer, but Lecky is worried people will be weary of large crowds.
“If a vaccine is not available to people by September, October–will people truly feel safe and comfortable in large crowds and events like this?” Lecky said.
Lecky said in the future, event coordinators will have to be more careful.
“Events are going to have to be more proactive on ways they are doing things,” he said. “Do events go cashless? Are employees wearing gloves? Are you sanitizing more frequently? I think attendees are going to want to see these kinds of changes now.”
Though more people are turning to outdoor recreation during the coronavirus outbreak, Virginia state and national parks are closing. The Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health recommended on April 8 the full closure of Shenandoah National Park, which has over 500 miles of hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy on April 3 formally requested permission to close the 2,193-mile trail through the end of the month. A long stretch of it winds through the state.
Virginia State Parks have also taken a hit from COVID-19. The 38 parks attract 11 million visitors annually, with 45% of park spending coming from out-of-state visitors, according to Dave Neudeck, communications and marketing director for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Neudeck said the parks have canceled campground and cabin reservations through June 10. They have also closed visitor centers.
“It’s definitely going to hit our budget because the revenues generated from our overnight facilities and our merchandise sales in our visitor centers are significant,” Neudeck said.
Neudeck is optimistic about the future of the parks and said this crisis might make people more appreciative of nature.
“What we are seeing right now is that more people are looking to parks and state parks to get outside and get that fresh air and get some exercise when they can,” he said. “Therefore, we are seeing a lot of first time visitors to our parks. The hope is that we’ll continue beyond when everything turns back to normal.”
For now, many are making the best of the crisis. Moore is making masks for health care professionals. Lecky is attempting to rebook vendors for later festivals. Cothern said VTC will increase promotional materials once people are allowed to travel freely. All agreed that the tourism industry is resilient and people will come back to Virginia.
Henrico County to host 136th USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open later this month
This will be the first time Henrico County has hosted a national governing body championship event, bringing local, national, and Olympian archers to the region to compete.
Henrico County and Richmond Region Tourism will host the 136th annual USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open on August 12th through the 15th at Dorey Park. This will be the first time Henrico County has hosted a national governing body championship event, bringing local, national, and Olympian archers to the region to compete.
The championship will strictly adhere to the Phase Three recreational sports guidelines, including physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and increased workplace safety practices.
“Being selected to host such a prestigious tournament is an absolute honor. We’re looking forward to working alongside Richmond Region Tourism and everyone involved to put on a safe and memorable event,” said Henrico County Manager John Vitoulkas.
The event will showcase adult (Senior and Masters) archers in the recurve, compound, and barebow divisions. Archers will shoot nearly 300 arrows to compete for gold medals and earn cash prizes reserved for top finishers. Only 250 participants will be permitted per field with two shooting sessions per day to allow for social distancing.
A kick-off event is scheduled for August 13th at 7:45 a.m., and the competition will begin at 8 a.m. For more information and details, visit usarchery.org.
“We’re thrilled to welcome some of the nation’s top archers to the region this August,” said Jack Berry, President & CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “We’ve recently started welcoming sports events and tournaments back to the region and have kept health and safety as a top priority. Sports tourism will continue to be a vital component as our region’s hospitality recovers.”
There are more than 30 sports tourism events booked across the region that are scheduled through Labor Day. The events will be an important boost to the region’s hospitality industry.
Tune-in for LGBTQ+ Youth: Side by Side Hosts Virtual Fundraiser on Aug. 1
Richmond-based nonprofit Side by Side is shifting its annual fundraiser online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic this weekend. “Springtime in the Summer” will premiere on Saturday via Facebook at 7 p.m.
The 30-minute broadcast will feature the 2020 Catalyst Award honorees, a group of individuals and organizations recognized for their support of LGBTQ+ youth in Central Virginia. Springtime in the Summer will also include stories and updates about Side by Side’s work and a virtual auction.
This year’s Catalyst Award recipients include:
- Dr. Archana Pathak: Dr. Pathak helped launch VCU’s LGBTQ+ Studies minor program in 2019 and is the Interim Director of the Q-Collective, a new LGBTQ+ resource and scholarship center at the university. She also provided counsel and support for Side by Side’s racial equity policies and programming.
- Stonewall Sports Richmond: Stonewall Sports Richmond is a sports league for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies. The nonprofit aims to create a social, safe and inclusive community where people are comfortable being themselves while taking part in fun sports and activities. Through fundraising and events focused on giving back, Stonewall Sports Richmond has raised more than $50,000 for LGBTQ+ nonprofits.
- Ginter Park Baptist Church: Ginter Park Baptist Church is a LGBTQ+ affirming congregation located in Richmond’s Northside. The church regularly contributes to Side by Side’s meals program, an initiative that ensures youth have access to a healthy meal when they attend support groups.
“We know the last few months have been extremely tough for people as the pandemic continues and the region and nation grapples with violence against Black people and systemic racism,” said Side by Side executive director Ted Lewis. “We hope Springtime gives people a chance to come together virtually to find community during this time. We also know nonprofits are not immune to the virus’ impact on the economy. Side by Side needs the community’s help more than ever to continue our mission to support LGBTQ+ youth living in Virginia.”
Before the online event on Saturday, local drag entertainer Natasha Carrington will safely and fabulously pass out pre-ordered take-home meals that support Side by Side at MOSAIC Catering + Event’s Museum District location from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Approximately 100 packages were purchased and people will be picking meals up through a drive-thru in front of MOSAIC. (Orders are no longer available.)
Springtime in the Summer is presented by Altria. Other generous sponsors include Salomon & Ludwin Financial Consulting Group, Lewis Insurance Associates, Kroger, Weinstein Properties, McKay Wealth Management, Equality Virginia, Mosaic, and TVJerry.
For more information, visit http://www.sidebysideva.org/springtime.
Side by Side organizes weekly support groups for LGBTQ+ youth in Richmond, Petersburg and Charlottesville throughout the year. The nonprofit has been hosting virtual meetings since March to keep youth, volunteers and staff safe in response to the pandemic.
Richmond reschedules National Night Out events due to COVID-19 concerns
Events will be tentatively rescheduled for October 6th, 2020.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Richmond Police Department is rescheduling this year’s National Night Out.
National Night Out will be tentatively held on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.
“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 conditions in Richmond,” police said in a release. “Please watch RPD’s social media sites for updates.”
National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police‐community partnerships, and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
As we get closer to the rescheduled date, RPD will provide updates on the status of 2020 National Night Out.