Nobody came: Rain drowns Valley tourism

Shenandoah Valley tourism is taking a beating this year, with Hurricane Isabel adding a staggering punch.

"It's been sluggish, not a good season,'' said L. Meriwether German, interim executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association. "It's the worst tourism season since the gas shortage of the late '70s."

The Blue Ridge Parkway, the most heavily visited attraction in the state, was off nearly 25 percent. "That's a heck of a hit,'' German said.

At the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, visitation was down about three percent, according to museum director and Staunton Mayor John Avoli.

Avoli says the museum had rain 21 days in May and 22 days in June. "And then we had a hurricane,'' he said.

"This is an outdoor museum and anytime you have rain, it's tough,'' Avoli said. "On good days– sunny days– we're average to above average.''

Tourism and attractions officials are banking on a strong autumn to help shore up a soft year.

"Fall is normally good for us,'' said John Shaffer, director of public relations at Luray Caverns. "But we haven't had a really good fall season since 9-11 of 2001.''

For the state, October is the second busiest month of the year for tourism; July is the first, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.