The Virginia Tourism Corporation announced that Virginia’s tourism industry generated $27 billion in visitor spending in 2019, a 3.4 percent increase over 2018.
In 2019, tourism in the Commonwealth supported 237,000 jobs for Virginia communities-a 0.9 percent increase from 2018. The tourism industry also generated $1.8 billion in state and local revenue, an increase of 3.9 percent compared to 2018. Virginia ranks eight in the nation for domestic travel spending.
“Travel and tourism play an indispensable role in our economy, and 2019 year was another impressive growth year for Virginia,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “While we celebrate this record-breaking success, we must also acknowledge the immediate and damaging impacts of the pandemic on tourism, which will be reflected in the numbers next year. We know that a revived tourism industry will be crucial to our overall economic recovery and we remain committed to helping it bounce back and emerge from this crisis even stronger.”
In 2019, travelers spent $73 million a day in Virginia. The travel industry in the Commonwealth has continued to grow 10 years in a row, with a compound annual growth rate of 3.9 percent since 2010. However, these figures do not account for the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry.
“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,” said Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny. “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.”
Since March, the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) 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.
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 (MLP) 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, the agency unveiled a new campaign, WanderLove, highlighting road trips, hidden gems, outdoor recreation, and other safe vacation experiences. During this time, Governor Northam also awarded more than $866,000 in grant funds to 90 destination marketing organizations (DMO) through VTC’s WanderLove Recovery Grant Program first announced in June.
Looking Ahead: Fall 2020 and Beyond — While the coronavirus has had a significant impact on Virginia’s tourism economy, 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 VTC 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.