John Watt has been on the job for less than two weeks now, and he has his hands full. He is the newly hired Manager of Tourism that will organize and promote tourism for the county.
His job will be to promote Chesterfield sports venues, and the rich historical sites as well as the upcoming cultural locations. The hire happened so quickly that the economic development department hadn’t had a chance to get the story out.
“The tourism thing took off so quickly we haven’t had a chance to get a press release out,” said Will Davis, director of economic development for Chesterfield County.
“This is not a new position. We used an existing FTE (full time employee) position and then re-emphasised some areas so we’re doing this without creating a new position,” Davis said.
Watt will be paid $59,000 a year and he is from the area. He has experience working 14 years at the State of Virginia in tourism, in community development; working with localities on developing their tourism programs. He is from the area. He worked for 14 years at the State of Virginia in tourism, in community development; working with localities on developing their tourism programs.
Mr. Watt will work from Chesterfield’s Economic Development office to attract business to the county, especially those that want to locate in an area because of a good tourism culture.
“We’ve always said that economic development is a three-legged stool,” Davis said. “The first leg is new business, the second is existing business and the third leg is tourism.”
“We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting,” said Betty Matthews, chairman of the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation (CCAF). “We are so happy because he has so much tourism experience. We are delighted that he would also be a member of ACT (Alliance for Chesterfield Tourism) and promote the cultural aspects of the county – art, history and quality of life.”
He will be coordinating tourism for the county; he’ll be working real close with businesses and how the county can assist them through various events that happen throughout the county; he’ll be working with Parks and Recs on sports tourism initiatives and with the historical assets in the county and how we can better promote them.
Davis says Watt will also be working with the Virginia Tourism Authority coordinating with the state and looking at how to position the county for better tourism activity.
The greatest coordination activity between Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield’s tourism managers will be the convention center.
“As Jack Berry [Direct of the Richmond Convention Center] always says, it’s always about heads in beds,” Davis said. “Just like with the Jefferson Cup, every locality wants their hotels and restaurants filled up.”
What the county wants when someone visits the Richmond region is whether it’s a soccer tournament or the aquatic center and the visitors say they will go to Williamsburg or Washington we want them to spend a day or two in Chesterfield, Davis says.
“We’re also developing a tourism a website,” Davis said, “The site will be going live in about 60 days so that anybody in the world can see what they can do in Chesterfield.”
Davis says, we’ve been talking about it for some time here in the county. How can we position ourselves better for tourism? “You know when we are talking with someone in the car or at the site or over dinner or about locating their business here; it inevitably comes up, what’s there to do in the area. I would say that 100 percent of the time in the tourism is in the mix.”