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Charlottesville named one of 'Most Friendly Places to Visit'

Something locals have known for a long time is getting some recognition nationally: Charlottesville has turned into a hospitality hotspot in the South.

Charlottesville was ranked in the top 20 U.S. cities on online travel agency Booking.com’s 2023 “Most Welcoming Destinations” list.

“Charlottesville and Albemarle County have a variety of different experiences that can be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike,” Brantley Ussery, a spokesman for the Visit Charlottesville tourism agency, told The Daily Progress. “With a robust outdoor recreation scene, a vibrant arts community, a renowned wine scene, incredible culinary options, and our historic pedestrian Downtown Mall, there are a myriad of ways to enjoy our region.”

Charlottesville ranks 17th in the nation in hospitality, which was determined by surveying 24,179 Booking.com travelers from 32 countries and territories. Respondents were asked to rate their experiences in terms of the friendliness and helpfulness of the locals, the cleanliness and safety of the destination as well as the overall value for money.

At the top of the list this year was Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Charlottesville, at No. 17, was between State College, Pennsylvania, and Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Unlike some other far-less-rigorous polls, Booking.com’s might have more merit to it. Booking.com is the most frequently downloaded travel app, according to the Apple App Store.

Charlottesville is benefitted from its location in the heart of the Virginia wine country and its proximity to the homes of American Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Highland and James Madison’s Montpelier. Naturally, it is also a destination for University of Virginia alumni, parents and prospective students.

The city and surrounding countryside have become popular for weekend getaways for the residents of larger cities and weddings for locals and out-of-towners alike.

It also provides an easy base for those interested in exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains on the parkway or Skyline Drive, the Shenandoah Valley and the Appalachian Trail.

One of the featured hotels in Charlottesville on Booking.com’s website is the art-forward boutique hotel the Quirk on West Main Street.

“The hotel is in the heart of the city. Its location helps our visitors have walkable access to all of the amenities Charlottesville can offer,” Hannah Gessler, an operator at the Quirk Hotel, told The Daily Progress. “Everything from shops, food, nightlife and the incredible culture Charlottesville has are just steps away.”

It is not just tourism driving business success in the area though. Locals are integral to profitability.

“Business is going great. Every weekend seems to be booked with wedding events and receptions, but we also host a lot of recurring events that are popular for locals and visitors alike,” Gessler said.

Tourism raked in a whopping $680,000 in revenue for the city of Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County in 2021, according to Visit Charlottesville. Also, visitors to the city generate $22.9 million in local tax collection, according to data released by the U.S. Travel Association.

Rivaling towns such as Asheville and Austin, Charlottesville has seen a surge in revenue because of its burgeoning arts and theater scene.

“Charlottesville is a breath of fresh air,” Ix Art Park Executive Director Lisa Capraro told The Daily Progress. “It offers so many things that a big city does but with a small town feel. We have great music, inspiring art, a vibrant food scene with many types of cuisine, an intellectual community and interesting history.”

The future for Charlottesville tourism includes efforts to make the region more inclusive and welcome a diverse array of visitors.

“We as the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau have been working on an important initiative called ‘Tourism For All,’” Ussery said. “This initiative aims to make all visitors feel welcome throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County.”

Recently, the regional tourism authority has partnered with local businesses to make attractions more accessible. According to Ussery, 62 of the board partners have completed accessibility assessments aimed at making them more welcoming to visitors.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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