Linda Burnett and her husband Don traveled to Virginia from Independence, MO with their daughter and grandson to enjoy Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. After spending a week in the Historic Triangle, Don stated that since they were so close, he wanted to take a trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.   Linda questioned what there would be to do on the other side, and Don quickly replied, “Well, there’s only one way to find out!”

On Friday, November 30, as they reached the other side of the Bridge-Tunnel complex, they stopped at the rest area, as many travelers do, and Linda entered the Eastern Shore of Virginia Southern Gateway Welcome Center while she waited for her family. Little did she know she would be the one millionth visitor!

Welcomed by Center Manager Allan Burns and his staff, Linda was presented with a large gift basket complete with gift cards, coupons and an assortment of local goodies, including an 8-night stay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, all generously donated by many of our local tourism partners.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Southern Gateway Welcome Center, which is managed by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, opened in August of 2009 and continues to be an integral part of the marketing to Eastern Shore visitors. It houses attention-grabbing lightbox displays, two 3D exhibits, a real-time video weather feed and over 200 rack cards featuring everything from local attractions, restaurants and B&B’s to upcoming events. It is open 362 days a year (it’s closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) and is staffed with experts to help guide folks off Route 13 and into all the hidden gems that the Eastern Shore has to offer. These ambassadors introduce visitors to one of the best things about Virginia’s Eastern Shore – our hospitality. Their efforts result in enticing thousands of people to stop and explore the area, rather than just drive through.

The success of the Welcome Center reflects the success of tourism throughout Virginia. This holds especially true for the Eastern Shore, which has been Virginia’s fastest-growing tourism region for 3 of the past 4 years. In 2016 alone, visitors to VA’s Eastern Shore spent $273.6 million (that’s $749,797 a day) and contributed $7.5 million in local taxes to the region. Additionally, the Tourism Commission’s website had almost 236,000 views in 2017 and expects to achieve even better results with the upcoming launch of their new website.

“The travel ambassadors of the Eastern Shore’s Southern Gateway Welcome Center exude Eastern Shore Hospitality at its finest,” stated Steve Potts, Chairman of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission. “Thanks to their smiling faces and knowledge of the region, they are able to assist thousands of visitors who walk across the Center’s threshold each year, often stopping for a restroom break but finding so much more than that beyond the doors! Their ability to share the hidden secrets of this region with these visitors has benefited our local business partners in amazing ways and today marks an incredible milestone.”

Jeff Holland, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel stated, “The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission continues to applaud the excellent work of the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission. The success of this Welcome Center has far surpassed our initial expectations and we look forward to a continued partnership that will allow these travel ambassadors to introduce many more visitors from near and far to everything that there is to love about the Eastern Shore.”

Linda and her family were so excited with this honor and said they can’t wait to begin their plans to return to the Eastern Shore and discover all there is to see and do.