New Kent County has decided to return to the regional tourism fold.
The county, home to the Colonial Downs horse-racing track, is rejoining Richmond Region Tourism as a partner on July 1 after a one-year hiatus.
New Kent joins the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Powhatan, the city of Richmond and Ashland in the nonprofit organization that offers services to support the area’s hospitality industry. New Kent had been a member each year since 1998 until this past 12 months.
“We have always seen Richmond Region Tourism as an important group in marketing this region and we are part of this region,” said Rodney Hathaway, New Kent county administrator. “We wanted to make sure our entities are being marketed as well.”
Tourism is a major industry in New Kent, he said. Colonial Downs reopened in April with its Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, providing gambling on what look like slot machines that run on parimutuel horse racing results while live horse racing will be run in August and September.
The county also has three wineries, with a fourth one soon to open, as well as four golf courses.
“Our economic development department works very hard in promoting the county, but we do think being a partner of Richmond Region Tourism gives us a much wider reach,” Hathaway said.
The reopening of Colonial Downs also has given New Kent additional revenue, he said.
New Kent decided last year not to renew its commitment for the 2018-19 fiscal year in part because of budget constraints, Hathaway said. Also, Richmond Region Tourism changed the pricing structure for its member governments that would have doubled New Kent’s commitment in five years.
“We can make that commitment to Richmond Region Tourism,” Hathaway said. “This is a long-term commitment and not just a one-year commitment.”
Jack Berry, Richmond Region Tourism’s president and CEO, said he was pleased that New Kent decided to rejoin. “Richmond Region Tourism’s model is a longstanding example of regional collaboration success,” he said.
Richmond Region Tourism is the official marketing organization for the Richmond region, offering services ranging from advertising to web presence support to public relations assistance for its members.
The organization was created in 1983 when what is now called ChamberRVA spun off its tourism operations into an independent Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. The name changed to Richmond Region Tourism in 2013.