NORFOLK -- Virginia tourism officials will spend $3 million next year in an advertising campaign that will be targeted at three age groups.

John Boatright, group vice president of the Martin Agency of Richmond, which was awarded this year's state advertising contract, said the new scheme is important "because currently, Virginia is being outspent by 14 other states in travel advertising and we needed to find a niche."

Boatright, speaking recently at the Virginia Travel Industry Annual Conference, said research showed that travel patterns and destinations change as demographics change, and vacationers go to specific attractions, not states. He said that means promotions should be geared toward specific destinations and advertising should be tailored to specific age groups.

By dividing the market into three segments and developing advertising to appeal directly to those groups, Virginia's travel industry can appeal to more potential visitors, Boatright said.

The three groups are families with parents age 25 to 48 with children at home and incomes of more than $30,000; couples older than 50 with no children at home, and couples between the ages of 25 and 34 without children.

This year's travel advertising will feature the slogan "Virginia Is for Lovers," which was developed by Boatright and the agency in 1969. The Martin Agency had the state's travel advertising contract from 1969 to 1979. The slogan was abandoned several years ago by the state Division of Tourism, but was restored at the direction of Gov. Gerald L. Baliles.

"I never could figure out how you could walk away from 15 years of equity and advertising in a slogan that was known all across the country," Boatright said.

Boatright said Virginia's location within a four-hour drive of several major cities is perfect for weekend trips, which are becoming more popular. He said fewer two-week vacations are being taken, and that the emphasis now is on one-week vacations and three or four long weekend trips a year.