Governor Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Tourism Corporation today launched the Virginia Oyster Trail, a major tourism development project connecting travelers to Virginia oyster purveyors, raw bars and restaurants, and the watermen culture throughout Coastal Virginia, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
The “ribbon-cutting” ceremony held Monday, Nov. 9 at the Tides Inn in Irvington, Va. kicked off the celebration of the Virginia Oyster Trail with a reception featuring Virginia oysters, wine, beer and craft spirits. Other distinguished guests of honor included First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Secretary Todd Haymore, and Deputy Secretary Russ Baxter, who shucked oysters to commemorate the opening of the trail.
A public-private partnership of stakeholders began working together to brand the Virginia oyster travel experience to show the world that Virginia is for Oyster Lovers. The trail offers visitors a way to enjoy Virginia’s seven different oyster regions, as well as experience the unique culture of watermen in the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Virginia Oyster Trail is a great new way to leverage all of the benefits Virginia oysters bring to local communities and our efforts to build a new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Virginia oysters help foster tourism, community development, agriculture, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurial growth and cultural integration of Virginia’s distinctive coastal way of life. Virginia produces the best oysters in the world, and as the oyster industry continues to grow, we want it to be known that Virginia is the Oyster Capital of the East Coast.”
Virginia is leading east coast seafood producer and the third largest in the nation. Virginia’s oyster harvest increased by 31 percent during the 2014 season, with more than 658,000 bushels, with a dockside value of more than $33.8 million, the most in nearly a generation.
Virginia’s seven different oyster regions produce the largest quantity of fresh wild-caught and farm-raised oysters in the United States and each region produces oysters with distinct flavors, offering an oyster for every palate. The Virginia oyster industry is one of the longest-standing industries in the state, providing bountiful meals for Virginia’s residents.
“I’m proud to promote Virginia oysters here and on international trade missions, where we’ve generated new export sales all over the globe,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “Agriculture and tourism are two of Virginia’s top private industries, and supporting their connection throughout the Commonwealth is an obvious win. I applaud the collaboration that has made the Virginia Oyster Trail a reality; partnerships between our watermen and oyster purveyors, restaurants, multiple state agencies and many local governments is a testament to the importance of the oyster industry throughout these regions. Today’s opening of the Virginia Oyster Trail will spur more growth and opportunities for our watermen, the marine product sector, and other businesses along the trail.”
“The growth of the oyster industry catalyzes growth in communities throughout Virginia,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “The Virginia Oyster Trail is another asset in the Commonwealth’s best in class tourism portfolio. In 2014, visitors spent $22.4 billion supporting nearly 217,000 jobs across the state.”
Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward added, “This trail will showcase the economic and ecological benefits of a robust oyster population, and we are grateful to our partners in both restoration and industry.”
“With seven different oyster regions, we are unlike any other state in the nation,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “The Virginia Oyster Trail will allow travelers to experience the state in a new way by pairing oysters with other Virginia products and learning more about the area they come from. This experience will be a new reason for travelers to visit Virginia.”
For more information on the Virginia Oyster Trail, visit virginiaoystertrail.com.