Virginia Tourism: A $27B business in 2019

virginia tourismVirginia tourism generated $27 billion in visitor spending in 2019 – $73 million a day, every day, supporting 237,000 jobs and raking in $1.8 billion in state and local taxes.

“Travel and tourism play an indispensable role in our economy, and 2019 year was another impressive growth year for Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam said.

The focus the past few months has been on trying to protect the industry in the wake of changing life patterns resulting from COVID-19 and the government response that has altered social and traveling activity.

Since March, the Virginia Tourism Corporation and destinations across the Commonwealth have pivoted business operations and strategies to help spur economic activity and inject dollars back into communities.

VTC implemented a three-phased approach to recovery messaging and marketing and has served as a hub of information for travelers and citizens as the pandemic evolves.

“The Virginia is for Lovers brand is highly recognizable and will be vitally important to bringing back travelers who have retreated due to the health crisis,” Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny said. “I truly believe that it is travel that will help us move forward again as a Commonwealth and as a country when this pandemic has passed. But we must give this industry the tools they need to survive now in order to come out on the other side. Virginia Tourism and the power of the Virginia is for Lovers brand can help do that. And we must.”

In Phase I, VTC launched We’ll Be Waiting for You, reminding travelers that Virginia is-and always will be-a place for love and connection. The message reassured visitors that Virginia’s incredible travel experiences will still be here when it is safe, and they are ready to travel again.

During Phase II, VTC launched a series of initiatives to support the struggling tourism industry in Virginia, including:

During this phase, VTC also revised its traditional format for the Marketing Leverage Program grant program and launched the VTC Recovery Marketing Leverage Program with amended guidelines to further assist the Virginia travel industry.

The Recovery MLP program awards offer one funding level with a maximum award of $20,000 and no longer requires a cash match, instead requiring an in-kind match value. The Recovery MLP awardees will be announced in late October.

As restrictions have been eased and consumers felt comfortable beginning to travel again, VTC has positioned Virginia as a great destination for those looking for low-cost, low-risk vacations.

In Phase III, VTC unveiled a new campaign, WanderLove, highlighting road trips, hidden gems, outdoor recreation, and other safe vacation experiences. During this time, Northam also awarded more than $866,000 in grant funds to 90 destination marketing organizations through VTC’s WanderLove Recovery Grant Program first announced in June.

The industry remains hopeful for a robust return to 2019 numbers in the future. Tourism economics forecasts that Virginia will approach normalcy in the second half of 2021, with full recovery in 2024.

In response to continued uncertainty, VTC plans to continue its WanderLove campaign for the foreseeable future, encouraging Virginians and drive-market travelers to explore the state and discover why Virginia is for Lovers.

Tourism will be key to economic recovery as the pandemic stabilizes. As travelers immediately inject cash back into communities, Virginia aims to restore the tourism economy into the vibrant and highly performing economic engine it always has been.

By promoting responsible tourism, innovative product development, and community cooperation, the tourism industry will return to its previous economic vitality as an instant revenue generator.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation receives its annual economic impact data from the U.S. Travel Association. The information is based on domestic visitor spending (travelers from within the United States) from per-person trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.

Detailed economic impact data by locality is available here.

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