Southside sees rise in tourism spending

DANVILLE, Va. – Tourism continues to grow in Southside — visitor spending increased to $144 million.

Tourism leaders say there are a number of different reasons why visitor spending increased in 2022 and a main factor they say is that people are curious about the Danville casino.

“We’ve been doing cake for a long time,” Mary Walker co-owner of Ma’s Cakes said.

Charles and Mary Walker love cakes so much they opened “Ma’s Cakes” in Downtown Danville two years ago.

“This a prime spot we feel in Downtown Danville,” Charles Walker co-owner said.

Downtown Danville is a spot with extra foot traffic that some say is now reviving.

“Downtown was a thriving place to come to, but then we went through a season, where there wasn’t many businesses downtown,” Mary Walker said.

The Walkers credit the renewed excitement surrounding downtown to the new casino.

“The words that are on people’s lips right now is the $650 million Caesar’s Virginia,” said Lisa Meriwether, Tourism Manager for Danville Office of Economic Development and Tourism.

Meriwether said the River City and Southside region saw $144 million in spending last year.

Meriwether said one reason is people wanted to travel after the pandemic, and some wanted to see what was happening in Pittsylvania County.

“Everybody was curious, we were seeing that rise in visitation because people wanted to know what was going on,” Meriwether said.

Tourism leaders launched the Visit SoSi program, which highlights activities in the Southside region that in the long run can impact economic development.

“If you build a place where people want to visit, you’re going to build a place where people want to live,” Meriwether said.

Tourism leaders said employment was impacted.

In 2021, there were 1,328 jobs. Last year, the Southside region had 1,445 jobs a 9% increase.

About the Author:

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.