~ Virginia’s tourism revenues reached $25.2 billion, marking an 87% recovery to pre-pandemic spending ~
RICHMOND – Today, Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) announced that travelers to Virginia spent $69 million a day in 2021, up from $48 million in 2020. Virginia’s tourism revenues also reached $25.2 billion in 2021, marking an 87% recovery to pre-pandemic spending in 2019. This spending supported 185,000 jobs, $7.1 billion in salaries and wages, and $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. 80 of Virginia’s 133 localities fully recovered to 2019 levels of spending and many grew even further. Specifically, Coastal Virginia, Shenandoah Valley, and the Blue Ridge Highlands regions contributed most significantly to the overall recovery in the Commonwealth.
“Tourism has seen an incredible comeback thanks to the hardworking leaders in the travel and tourism industry across Virginia,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “As travelers continue to visit communities across the state, Virginia is on pace to restore the tourism industry into the vibrant and highly performing economic engine it always has been. We look forward to an even stronger recovery in 2022.”
Virginia Tourism’s Recovery
The Commonwealth has recovered significantly from the pandemic, but the recovery has been uneven across geography and travel sectors. While the initial onset of the pandemic had a devastating impact on the travel industry in 2020, domestic leisure travel saw a robust return in 2021 as travelers sought outdoor experiences and drivable destinations. Virginia is uniquely positioned geographically and is within a day’s drive from nearly half of the U.S. population. As road trips boomed, many Virginia regions were able to reap the benefits of increased travel.
While Northern Virginia was slow to pick up momentum in 2021 due to severely depressed business and international travel, there has been a material shift in recovery of hotel performance in the region and it is moving in a strong direction to full recovery. With solid performance across the Commonwealth, it is expected that spending will fully reach 2019 levels in 2022.
Key Industry Performance
Virginia’s tourism and travel industry is comprised of a variety of sectors which contribute to its economic vitality, employment, and tax revenue. Among key travel industries impacted, Virginia’s food and beverage industry has the largest share of tourism dollars, accounting for $7.2 billion or 29% of spending. In 2021, food and beverage spending recovered to 92% of 2019 levels. Other key performance indicators across the industry include:
- Transportation (28% of visitor spending): Although transportation spending increased by 52% in 2021, with the slow return of air travel, the transportation share of spending has only recovered to 78% of 2019 levels.
- Lodging (19% of visitor spending): Lodging spending grew by 48% in 2021, reaching 87% of 2019 levels.
- Recreation (13% of visitor spending): Recreation grew by 46% in 2021, returning to 94% of 2019 levels and represents the industry closest to full recovery.
- Retail (12% of visitor spending): Retail has returned to 90% of 2019 levels.
Looking Ahead: 2022 and Beyond
With the additional marketing dollars that came through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Virginia and its localities should continue to see growth in visitor spending. Virginia Tourism, specifically, utilized recovery grant funds to advertise in new markets and reached nearly 15 million more households in 2022 relative to 2021. By reaching more travelers, Virginia continues to raise awareness and consideration as a premier travel destination, resulting in increased bookings and arrivals, which translates to increased visitor spending across the state.
Virginia Tourism partnered with Tourism Economics for its 2021 Annual Economic Impact study.
About Virginia Tourism Corporation
Virginia is for Lovers is one of the most iconic and recognizable travel brands in the world. Using that powerful brand equity, Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) is charged with promoting the Commonwealth as a premier travel destination by showcasing all there is to love in a Virginia vacation. The dollars spent by travelers fuel the economy, provide jobs for Virginians, and improve communities across the state. Simply put, tourism helps make Virginia a great place to live, work, and visit. Learn more at virginia.org.