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Meet Virginia’s new in-house Canadian Marketing Representative
Christi Braginton (left) and Brigitte “Bri” Bélanger-Warner

Meet Virginia’s new in-house Canadian Marketing Representative

Friday, August 3, 2018

TORONTO — For the first time ever, Virginia Tourism Corporation is keeping its Canadian marketing department in-house, with a new rep who already has a big presence in Quebec.

Brigitte “Bri” Bélanger-Warner, a Montreal native, came onboard last month as the company’s new Canadian Marketing Representative. She previously spent seven years at the Charlottesville & Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, so she knows Virginia well and is deeply passionate about her adopted home.

But being from Montreal, Bélanger-Warner has already built a vast network of relationships in Canada, which she says has given her an edge in her new role.

“I know a lot of tour operators, I have a lot of relationships in Montreal, and with my previous experience at the CACVB, I feel like I already have a head start,” Bélanger-Warner told Travelweek. “I’m excited to get out there and start working with travel agents.”

First on her agenda will be working with CAA offices to conduct webinars for the trade, and educating agents about Virginia’s vast tourism offerings.

The timing for in-house Canadian representation couldn’t be more right, said Christi Braginton, International Media Relations Manager at Virginia Tourism Corporation.

“We’ve been in this market for over 20 years, so we feel like we’ve had a bit of traffic. With Brigitte being in our office full time and dedicated to this market, we can approach Canada more effectively in our marketing efforts,” she said.

Canada, added Braginton, is Virginia’s #1 international inbound market, with 80% coming from Ontario and Quebec. As Virginia is less than a 10-hour drive from Toronto, it’s a popular road-trip option for Canadians, especially those on their way to Florida, with approximately 60% choosing to make their way down by car.

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But with convenient, year-round flights with Porter and Air Canada, Virginia is quickly becoming known as a standalone destination for Canadian vacationers. In 2016, approximately 500,000 Canadians paid a visit, with 24% travelling by air.

And with the late-fall season approaching, which Braginton says is the best time to visit, now is when agents should be making a push for bookings to Virginia.

Here’s what new and exciting in Virginia in 2018/2019:

  • Scheduled to open in fall 2018, The Bristol Hotel will repurpose downtown Bristol’s notable Executive Plaza, which dates back to 1925. The boutique hotel offers 65 remodelled rooms, street-front dining and farm-to-table cuisine.
  • The Cavalier, a five-star member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, completed a US$75 million renovation earlier this year. It boasts 85 guestrooms, an onsite bourbon distillery, ballroom and restaurant.
  • Earlier this year, Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa in Old Town Alexandria completed a multi-million-dollar, phased redesign to all 107 guestrooms, including 16 suites, hallways, public areas, restaurant and meeting space.
  • New bike trails and disc golf recently opened at Moneta Park, which is also home to a trail system for walkers, hikers and mountain bikers.
  • The Virginia Oyster Trail connects producers, farmers, purveyors, seafood restaurants and raw bars in Virginia’s bay and river towns for an authentic oyster tourism experience.
  • Many people don’t know that Virginia is the fifth largest wine-producing state in the U.S. with over 300 wineries scattered across seven different American Viticultural Areas throughout the Commonwealth. Notable wineries include Seven Doors Winery in Huddleston, Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery in Richmond, and Mermaid Winery, which expanded to Virginia Beach in early 2018.
  • Virginia is also the sixth-largest apple producing state by acreage in the U.S., and cider is a rich part of its heritage. Suggest a visit to one of its many cideries, including Ditchley Cidery outside of Kilmarnock, Potters Cider in Charlottesville, and Courthouse Creek Cider in Richmond.
  • The Richmond Beer Trail is quickly becoming a major craft beer destination, with more than 20 craft breweries and more on the way. The LoCo Ale Trail will continue to expand, with seven new breweries slated to open this year.
  • Virginia is the Birthplace of American Spirits; the first batch of whiskey was distilled in the state in 1620. Tarnished Truth Distilling Company at The Cavalier opened its doors earlier this year as part of the historic hotel’s renovations. Other suggestions: Twin Creeks Distillery in Henry, Devils Backbone Distilling Company in Roseland, and Filibuster Distillery in Maurertown.
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For more information on travel to Virginia, go to Virginia.org. To contact Bélanger-Warner directly, call (804) 389-4688 or email bwarner@virginia.org.

Cindy Sosroutomo

Cindy Sosroutomo

Deputy Editor at Travelweek
Cindy is Deputy Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 2007. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Kenya, Morocco, Thailand and Turkey among her favourite destinations.
Cindy Sosroutomo
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