WINCHESTER — The Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau is utilizing a new, high-tech tool that shows how many people visit the area and where they go when they’re here.

Justin Kerns, the bureau’s executive director, said the tracking service from Arrivalist uses visitors’ cellphones to determine where they are. Whenever a person uses an app that has location services enabled, Arrivalist takes note and shares that information with the bureau.

“We use this data to help drive our marketing decisions and show our local partners where the people are coming from,” Kerns said.

Since cellphone users can disable location services for any or all of their apps, and since they may not use apps while visiting Winchester or Frederick County, the numbers reported by Arrivalist may not reflect every visitor to the region. But since the vast majority of Americans use cellphone apps on a daily basis, Kerns said the Arrivalist report is a very close approximation.

To make sure a person is a visitor and not a resident or someone simply driving through the area, he or she has to meet several criteria before Arrivalist registers their information.

“You have to be in the Winchester-Frederick County area for at least two hours, and you have to have come from at least 50 miles away,” Kerns said, noting the data reported by cell phone apps includes a user’s ZIP code. “If you meet those two criteria and come here less than once a week, then you show up in the data.”

According to Arrivalist, 78,547 people who met the reporting criteria visited Winchester and/or Frederick County in March. Most of those people were passing through and only stopped here briefly, but 12,404 of them were reportedly visiting local attractions or were on their way to do so.

Most people who came to the Winchester area for a specific purpose live on the East Coast and drove an average of 160 miles to get here. Arrivalist said the highest numbers of visitors in March came from Washington, D.C., New York, Harrisonburg, Baltimore and Richmond.

Thirty-three percent of the 12,404 people whose destination was the Winchester area were taking a day trip, while 19.6% stayed here for one night, 12% stayed for two nights, 14.3% stayed for three nights and 21.1% stayed for four or more nights.

The most common day of the week for visits to the Winchester area is Saturday, followed in order by Sunday, Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Monday and Thursday.

According to Arrivalist, the top spot for people coming to Winchester and/or Frederick County is Shenandoah University, which accounted for 30% of all local visits in March. The average duration of their stays in the city was 23.3 hours.

While most people probably wouldn’t consider Shenandoah University to be a tourism hotspot, Kerns said out-of-town visitors to the Winchester college qualify as tourists.

“They come to the community, they stay for a few days, they get a hotel,” he said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a tourist attraction,” added Renee Bayliss, visitor and community relations specialist for the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But people who come to the university may go to another tourist attraction.”

The second most popular local destination in March, according to Arrivalist, was the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester, where 29% of the 12,404 visitors shopped, dined or watched a movie for an average of 1.2 hour.

“It was kind of surprising to see it that high up,” Kerns said about the mall’s inclusion on Arrivalist’s list. “But it’s a relatively healthy mall and there’s not that many of them left anymore.”

Rounding out the top five local destinations in March were the Loudoun Street Mall (28.1%, 1.6 hour), West Oaks Farm Market (2.9%, 1.6 hour) and The Cove Campground (2.1%, 3.6 hours).

April’s Arrivalist numbers promise to be remarkably different thanks to the 95th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which is currently underway and runs through May 1. Festival officials have estimated as many as a quarter of a million people enjoy the parades and special events every spring, but the Arrivalist data will give a much more precise indication of how many people will be coming to Winchester this year to celebrate The Bloom.


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