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Tourists right at home

Longtime Suffolk residents might find it hard to believe that tourists visiting the city contributed $54 million to the local economy in 2008 and supported 560 Suffolk jobs.

The figures above come from the Virginia Tourism Corporation, whose job it is to promote tourism throughout the commonwealth. The VTC is the agency that owns the famous “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, and it works hard to sell the state as a vacation destination to people from all over the country and around the globe.

But tourism isn’t just for vacationers. Suffolk residents would do well to look around their own hometown when it comes time to find something new and exciting to do.

The human tendency is to overlook the things in our own backyard because of constant exposure. Thus, when most of us look for a vacation spot or even something different to do during the weekend, we find ourselves making hotel reservations, buying plane tickets or filling our cars with gas for a long drive away from home. For many of us, it takes having out-of-town visitors to make us realize just how much there is to do right in our own backyards.

Today’s Shake, Rattle & Roll Spring Car Show on Main Street and next weekend’s Virginia Festival of Flight at the Suffolk airport are but two of the fun events that residents miss if they hop in the car and head out of town at the first sign of good weather on the weekend.

And with historical resources such as Riddick’s Folly and eco-tourism opportunities such as the Great Dismal Swamp within easy commuting distance of anywhere in the city, there’s no need to wait for a special event to find something new and interesting to do in Suffolk.

Visitors to our fair city found it engaging enough to spend $54 million in 2008 enjoying its offerings. Those who call it home would do well to take the hint.