Local tourism adds to state's $25 billion industry

4.4 percent increase over previous year

ROANOKE – More tourists are picking Virginia as their vacation destination.

While Virginians already knew the commonwealth was a great place to be, the numbers now prove it.

Gov. Ralph Northam just announced that Virginia's tourism revenue reached $25 billion last year, increasing 4.4 percent from the previous year.

The number means that Virginia tourism is now officially a $25 billion industry.
A large portion of that number is spent in our backyard.

A metro-mountain adventure, it's a draw pulling more and more tourists to the region.

“It's big business here and an important part of the commerce is bringing visitors here,” said Catherine Fox, vice president of Public Affairs & Destination Development for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Visitors come for a wealth of attractions in the Roanoke, Alleghany, Botetourt and Franklin County regions, from the scenes of the Blue Ridge parkway to the ever-growing craft beverage business scene.

Fox said tourism is an investment in our region and an economic driver.

"Virginia’s Blue Ridge is in its eighth consecutive year of growth which is phenomenal,” Fox said. “We are an $813 million industry, which for travel expenditures is direct. We are very pleased to see that."

That same trend is also happening in the New River Valley.

Kevin Byrd, executive director of the New River Regional Commission, said that trend is due in large to Virginia Tech and Radford University.

"The universities are drawing a major component of tourism as well as the natural environment,” Byrd said.

Natural resources like the new river, Appalachian Trail and Claytor Lake continue to be that areas biggest draws.

Byrd says tourism adds $266 million worth of expenditures each year directly responsible for directly creating 2,600 jobs in the New River Valley.

"So it's pretty much the equivalent of having a major employer located in the area," Byrd said.

Fox said Roanoke's tourism success means major companies are taking notice -- creating future opportunities.

"We see us being a motivator for them to really support us and also for us to support efforts for tourism here,” Fox said.

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