On Monday, an estimated 5.22 million viewers tuned in to ABC to watch an episode of “The Bachelorette” filmed in Richmond.

If the attraction-laden footage looked like an advertisement for the city, that’s because it sort of was. Virginia Tourism Corp. paid $536,130.38 for the show to film here.

Virginia Tourism made a financial contribution of $300,000 to “The Bachelorette” to film in Virginia and $236,130.38 to help defray costs of rooms, meals, production space, internet and parking at the Graduate Hotel and Quirk Hotel, where the cast and staff stayed during filming, according to documents obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In return, according to the contract, Virginia Tourism received one verbal mention of the “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism slogan, one shot of a LOVE sign in the episode, and a promotional link to the “Virginia is for Lovers” website on the ABC site, among other “exposures.”

“‘The Bachelorette’ has a massive audience of almost 6 million viewers per week,” said Caroline Logan, director of communications with Virginia Tourism. “The show is always trending on social media. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to reach potential new travelers. And to reach millions, instead of thousands.”

“Due to our budget restrictions, we’re not able to advertise in our key markets — like New York,” she added. “This was a way that we could reach them.”

Warner Bros., which produces the reality dating show along with Next Entertainment, would not respond to Times-Dispatch requests for comment. But earlier this year Nicole Woods, a producer on the sister show “The Bachelor,” told Town & Country magazine that the show relies “heavily on the support of these partnerships” with tourism boards, destinations and hotels.

In January, Nevada’s Lake Tahoe served as a location for “The Bachelor.” The area also came to a financial and trade agreement to make the filming happen, although Lake Tahoe didn’t disclose the amount or terms of the agreement.

“Our partners involved in the episode saw a significant spike in website traffic, newsletter subscriptions, social media followers and wedding inquiries,” said Carol Chaplin, president of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Shortly after the episode aired, Chaplin said, a fan booked a trip to follow in the Bachelor’s footsteps. The trip was covered by local TV stations.

Getting a show like “The Bachelorette” to film in Richmond is part of a new strategy for Virginia Tourism, which has an overall budget of $26.8 million for 2018, the bulk of which comes from the state general fund.

“Travel is overly saturated. We have to find new ways to stay competitive,” Logan said. “We’re looking for new ways to bring attention to the Virginia is for Lovers brand. We were really excited to think outside the box for this opportunity.”

Typically, the Virginia Film Office handles bringing in television shows and movies like “Homeland,” “Turn” and “Lincoln.” The Virginia Film Office serves as a workforce development initiative through tax incentives to get movie projects and TV series to film in the state, said Andy Edmunds, the office’s director.

The Virginia Film Office offered “Homeland” $700,000 in a grant and up to $6.5 million in tax credits to film in Virginia. “Homeland” filmed in Virginia for several months, using local crews and services. The economic impact of having “Homeland” film in Virginia is expected to be more than $75 million.

But having a long-running TV series film in Virginia is much different from having one episode of a reality dating show film locally for one week.

Virginia Tourism took the reins on “The Bachelorette” because “this was a branding opportunity,” Logan said. “It was a way to raise awareness of Virginia as a travel destination.”

The Virginia is for Lovers tagline is all over the episode of “The Bachelorette,” which filmed in the Richmond area in April. The episode highlighted the area’s history.

Bachelorette Becca Kufrin took a date to an “Unhappy Hour” at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Later, a group date was led by Abraham Lincoln and George Washington re-enactors to a “Beccalection 2018” debate on the steps of the state Capitol, with a guest spot from Gov. Ralph Northam.

Zhiela Ashtiana and Bethany Silva, local fans who were at the taping at the Carpenter Theatre in April, thought the show focused too much on Richmond’s history.

“I know that Richmond has a lot of history and culture, but I felt like the show made Richmond seem a little boring,” Silva said. “It felt too heavy on the history. Those aren’t the kinds of things I like to do here.”

Logan said that Virginia Tourism offered “The Bachelorette” plenty of suggestions for where and what to film in town, but ultimately, it was up to the show to choose where to aim the camera.

The crew also filmed brief spots at Sugar Shack Donuts, The Veil Brewing Co., Old City Hall, RVA Trolley, Main Street Station, Dover Hall and the Bolling Haxall House.

Kufrin and host Chris Harrison stayed at Quirk Hotel; the suitors stayed at the Graduate Richmond, both of which received prominent airtime.

Sherry Abedi, general manager at Quirk Hotel, said the hotel didn’t pay a fee to appear on the show.

“The property was a perfect match for the show. We’re very much a leisure destination and a wedding hotel. We offer a romance package. It was a nice fit, obviously,” Abedi said. “Given the audience and the viewership of the show, it’s the most exposure we’ve ever had.”

Virginia Tourism uses media-monitoring software, and Logan said that through mentions of the show, the state agency already received $47 million in publicity value with “The Bachelorette.”

“I think it was a very smart, strategic investment for us,” Logan said. “We’re very pleased with the results.”

Virginia Tourism has already added a “‘Bachelorette’ itinerary or romance-inspired itinerary” — as permitted by Article 2j of the contract — to its website, where visitors can check out the locations where Kufrin and her suitors stopped on the show. It’s touted under “Follow in Becca’s footsteps to find love in Virginia.”

ccurran@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

Colleen Curran covers events and arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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(26) comments

Julie Luke

Folks, hopefully, you realize that dollars spent to market our State tourism are budgeted on an annual basis. This money is allocated for this specific reason. As stated, it cost 9 cents per a viewer for a two-hour commercial. Think about how much a Prime-time 30 second commercial would have cost. This was brilliant! I was proud of the coverage and our city looked really beautiful. I am sure that Sugar Shack Doughnuts appreciated the plug, as well as all of the other places. Revenue from tourism comes back to all of us in one way or another. Stop your griping and funds for Richmond schools are in the process of accumulating now as we all enjoy (sarcasm) the new tax rate at our city restaurants.

Stephen McMaster

Nobody knew Reese's Pieces until they were used in ET. While the show is not my taste, 10.44 million eyes, roughly, saw this show. From an advertising standpoint, this was a bargain. Good for the Tourism Bureau thinking out of the box. Far better use of $$$ than the Feckless Redskins Park.

JOHN SMITH

$536,000 to give 6,000,000 folks a glowing impression of Richmond? That works out to about 9 cents per person. That's fantastic! Anybody who thinks they could do better is kidding themselves from the comfort of their Monday Morning Quarterback Couch...

F BENSON

Won't quibble with the expenditure as an investment (maybe it's cost effective), BUT can't help but wonder how many of the couch potatoes who depend on The Bachelorette for their entertainment will decide they need to get up and go to Richmond.

KATHLEEN NICKELE

The show has a very large audience of romantics who have a proven track record of following in the shows footsteps.

Steve Powell

Ryan McDougall , Buddy Fowler, where were you guys when all of this went on? This is state money and I don’t like it!

carole hess

they have got to do something, they are killing the CAPITOL of the CONFEDERCY tourist trade.

Drake D Butler

Yeah... all war-based tourism is basically dying off.

AUGUST KELLER

Yeah, the record high visitation to civil war battlefields supports your drival. Figures are way down at Pearl harbor and Normandy. What a dope.

AUGUST KELLER

The fruits of our more 'progressive', secular culture on clear display

JOHN SWAIN

The Commonwealth and it’s localities see tourism money as green, regardless of whether it is expended by those wth bad tastes or good tastes, uneducated or educated, believers in The Lost Cause or non-racists, Redskins fans or otherwise, etc.

STEPHAINE VEHRS

Beware of software that turns $536,000 into $47 million.

CAROLE HINDMAN

This, from a state that now funds approximately 13 cents on the dollar of our so-called "public" colleges and universities. This, from a state that supplanted general funds earmarked for k-12 education with lottery money that is dedicated to education, so that the overall impact year-in and year-out is less money for k-12. This, from a state that pays its State Police a laughable wage. This, from a state whose financial condition was so bad (in recent years) that a former governor closed the interstate rest areas. I'm just glad these folks don't have control over my household's budget; I'd be out on the street.

BRUCE MILAM

Kaine closed the rest areas out of spite. The money was always there. He dpent his entire gubernatorial term trying for a $4billion tzx increase that was unnecessary. when it failed and his term was ending, he clilosedd the rest stops and claimed the state was broke. It was just another lie.

TRACY PETERS

This may be the saving grace for Virginia and Richmond with regards to Tourism …. Folks will not want to visit Virginia and Virginia to see statues of local yokels they have never heard of, race baiting carpetbaggers and a rewrite of the history of Virginia, Richmond and the South.

Mama take me to Richmond for our vacation, “That is where they filmed the Bachelorette back in the olden days of the 2018”.

We might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but it is evident they are no longer here.

Ron Melancon

OMG what a bunch of idiots we have spending our money. Is this what the Citybof Richmond needs to fund one year of the RPS school budget

JENNY OWEN

It was Virginia Tourism, NOT the City of Richmond, that paid for the show to film in Richmond.

KATHLEEN NICKELE

Instead they may bring in enough money to fund two years of the RPS school budget. With states competing for tourism dollars, advertising is essential for building your brand and generating revenue. Virginia is a tourism state, we need those dollars to balance our budget and fund our schools. Why would you complain about investing in a proven method of increasing tourism revenue.

ALLISON WILLIAMS

There is a sucker born every moment.

LINDA FREEMAN

Are you kidding? Why is state money being spent on such a show with questionable morals?

TRE ROCKENBACH

Because, as the article states, there are a lot of people who watch the show. Consequently, a smaller amount of state money was invested in hopes of a much greater return if a percentage of those viewers are enticed to travel to Virginia and spend their money here.

GEORGE SNEAD

R u Fricking kidding me?!!! Are there really people who think this is a legitimate use of taxpayer monies?

KATHLEEN NICKELE

Funny you should ask that. I was thinking how was it possible that someone could possibly think that this was not an excellent use of taxpayer monies? Tax cuts have hit state budgets pretty hard. States now have to compete against each other for the revenue they need to fund our schools and keep our taxes down. Just like corporations, states now advertise to sell their 'brand'. Our state just got an excellent deal on that advertising. Take the win and stop whining.

LINDA FREEMAN

Why did the tourism board think that just because people saw Richmond on a sexually suggestive television show about women sampling men to find husbands, these viewers would flock to the city as visitors?


Tom Terrific

Sure. People love to visit Richmond Because of the Love sign, right? We could have an annual Sadie Hawkins day! That would help our backwoods image, right?

LINDA VIGLIETTI

Again we see our stupid elected officals wasting our money. That money should have gone for schools

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