Tourism has proven itself to be an engine of growth in the Virginia economy,” according to Governor Mark Warner. The core industry of travel and tourism generated 7.9 percent of total employment in 2003 — making the travel and tourism industry the fifth largest private-sector employer in the Commonwealth.
In 2004, tourists spent approximately $33.5 million in Tazewell County. Tazewell County officials have long recognized the important impact of tourism to the local economy, and have directed the Tourism Development Committee to explore various options of enhancing and creating more tourism opportunities. The Tourism Committee partners with state and regional tourism authorities to attract more tourists.
The Tazewell County Visitors’ Center, located behind the Sanders House in Bluefield, is the first state-certified Visitors’ Center in the region. In 2004, the staff of the Visitors’ Center mailed thousands of brochures to potential tourists and greeted hundreds of visitors from 35 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Germany and Russia. Also, the Visitors’ Center maintains an up-to-date Tourist Resource Guide — which lists local events, festivals, points of interest and information on lodging, restaurants, ATM machines, churches, and local services and businesses.
Tourists interested in historical sites will find Registered National Historic Landmarks, including the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine. In addition to quality museums that document the heritage of Tazewell County, tourists will find landmarks (such as the Richlands Coal Miner’s Memorial), murals, unusual brick sculptures, and an abundance of historic homes that grace the landscape throughout the region. Historic Crab Orchard Museum provides a comprehensive overview of Southwest Virginia history. The Museum at Higginbotham House allows guests to experience old-world charm through hundreds of artifacts that depict life in the country from pre-historic times to the 20th century. The Coal Heritage Museum in Pocahontas recounts the story of how “King Coal” fueled America’s industrial revolution.
Touted as Four Seasons Country, Tazewell County has exquisite foliage and an abundance of wildlife. In fact, the Nature Conservancy declared the Clinch River basin that originates in Tazewell County to be one of only 20 “Last Great Places” in the world (1990). The world’s largest collection of rare and endangered fresh water species is located in Tazewell County, along with six of eight designated points on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail: Mountain Heritage Loop.
Burke’s Garden allows thousands of visitors each year to experience the unparalleled beauty of a National Historic Rural District. In addition to attendees for the annual Burke’s Garden Festival and the runners who test their mettle in the annual 5K “Varmint Run,” numerous visitors tour “the Garden” as a side trip from the Appalachian Trail, the Heart of Appalachia Bike Route and Scenic Trail, and the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.
Tazewell County has registered as an official Jamestown 2007 community, and will participate in the statewide, year-long celebration of Virginia’s 400th anniversary. The theme of “Come Home to Virginia: America’s Birthplace” is sure to draw national and international attention.