Tourism spending continues to grow across the Commonwealth

Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge says statewide increases mean local increases too

ROANOKE, Va. – Leaders across the Commonwealth are celebrating yet another boost in tourism spending.

Numbers released by the Governor's Office show Virginia's tourism generated $26 billion in 2018, a 4.4% increase over 2017.

Based on those numbers, Roanoke tourism leaders feel confident their numbers are up, too.

"We're very excited here in Virginia's Blue Ridge about the state numbers because they also reflect our numbers. We're starting to see significant growth this year over an already record year last year so we're very happy to hear that the Commonwealth is doing the same thing," Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge President Landon Howard said.

The new Virginia's Blue Ridge sports branding and the growing medical research scene in Roanoke are credited with some of the growth. Howard said the region is on its way to a goal of $1 billion in tourism spending in Virginia's Blue Ridge in the next few years.


Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s tourism industry generated $26 billion in visitor spending across all communities in 2018, a 4.4 percent increase over 2017. In 2018, tourism in Virginia supported 234,000 jobs for Virginia communities—a 1 percent increase from 2017. The tourism industry also provided $1.8 billion in state and local revenue, an increase of 2.9 percent compared to 2017. The travel industry is the fifth largest employer in Virginia.

With Virginia is for Lovers celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, Virginia Tourism Corporation took the opportunity to look back on historic economic impact data. The economic impact of travel in the Commonwealth has grown from $1.3 billion ($8.6 billion in 2018 dollars) in 1969 to $26 billion in 2018 with a compound annual growth rate of 6.4 percent.

“Virginia’s tourism industry continues to transform communities across the Commonwealth by stimulating our local economies, generating positive growth, and creating jobs and opportunity for our citizens,” said Governor Northam. “From coast to cliff, Virginia’s rich history, charming small towns, booming culinary scene, beautiful mountain vistas and warm, sunny beaches have positioned the Commonwealth to be a premier travel destination in the United States. As we look ahead to the next 50 years, we invite visitors from across the country and the around the world to discover for themselves why Virginia is for Lovers.”

The iconic slogan “Virginia is for Lovers,” was developed in 1969 by Richmond-based advertising firm Martin & Woltz (now the Martin Agency). Destinations across the Commonwealth are participating in the commemoration of 50 Years of LOVE, and celebrating the important impact tourism has on Virginia’s economy and communities. Over the past 50 years, the tourism industry has continued to grow each year. In 2018, domestic travelers spent $71 million a day in Virginia, which represents a 4.4 percent increase over 2017. Domestic travel-supported employees in Virginia earned $6.1 billion in payroll income during 2018, representing a 3 percent increase from 2017.

“Tourism touches so many industries and citizens across the Commonwealth, from our winemakers making a mark on the viticulture world to oyster farmers revitalizing the Chesapeake Bay; from James Beard-nominated chefs to outdoor recreation outfitters; from quaint B&Bs to our sprawling resorts—folks behind the tourism industry are making an enormous impact on Virginia’s economy, our communities, and our quality of life,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As we celebrate 50 Years of LOVE in 2019, the future is bright for the tourism industry in Virginia.”

The Virginia Tourism Corporation is the state agency responsible for marketing Virginia to visitors and promoting the Virginia is for Lovers brand, which celebrates 50 years in 2019. Virginia is for Lovers is the longest-running state tourism slogan in the country.

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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