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2016 Winner

Virginia Tourism Corporation
Introducing the Virginia Oyster Trail


Virginia Tourism formed a coalition of partners to help develop and market the Virginia Oyster Trail, aimed at introducing it as a travel experience, much like the bourbon trail or wine region. Virginia Tourism’s vision is to give the Virginia oyster similar notoriety to the Maryland crab.
Although Virginia’s oysters historically were seen as best in the world, the oyster industry in Virginia fell on hard times. A combination of non-sustainable fishing practices and overall economic struggles in rural areas pushed the industry to collapse. Waterman culture was a cornerstone of Virginia’s coastal life, and this way of life was beginning to disappear.
The 21st century created an opportunity with hard work from oyster farmers and changing environmental laws to begin producing and selling only sustainably-raised oysters. Virginia Tourism saw an opportunity to align with strong travel and food trends, working to promote the Virginia oyster and create an oyster trail to attract new visitors to the state.
Virginia Tourism launched an integrated campaign including original content, articles detailing the sourcing of sustainable oysters in America’s finest restaurants, and advertising to educate visitors about the prominence of the Virginia oyster. The campaign was multi-faceted and capitalized on awareness and pride in Virginia oysters and waterman culture.
The Virginia Oyster Trail program was evaluated on key strategic goals, including consumer engagement figures and growth in oyster sales. Virginia achieved a 31 percent increase in visitation to oyster-related content and a 16 percent increase in visitation to the Virginia is for Oyster Lovers website landing page. Virginia’s oyster harvest jumped 31 percent over 2014’s yield, with over 658,000 bushels, a value over $33.8 million – the most in nearly a generation of oyster harvesting.


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