Arlington County sets tourism record in 2019, braces for sharp drop for 2020

A man walks past closed stores in Arlington, Virginia on March 31, 2020. (AFP via Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

D.C.-area tourism is on the ropes in 2020, but 2019 was another record-breaking year for tourism in Arlington County, Virginia.

According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Arlington County tourism spending rose to a record $3.6 billion, topping the previous record set in 2018. Tourism spending generated $97.8 million in local tax receipts in Arlington.

Tourism supported more than 27,000 jobs in Arlington County in 2019, up 2% from 2018.

Last year was the 12th consecutive year that Arlington County has led Virginia counties for visitor spending.

“Arlington tourism’s best-ever performance in 2019 is a testament to the outstanding efforts of our hotels, restaurant and other hospitality businesses,” said Emily Cassel, director of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service.

“It is also bittersweet, as this year’s COVID-19 crisis continues to have a devastating impact on companies and individuals across our industry — locally, nationally and globally,” Cassel said.

Tourism officials had no specific guidance on COVID-19’s impact on tourism figures for 2020, though the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service acknowledged it has put the Virginia travel and tourism industry in crisis.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation receives tourism spending data each year from the U.S. Travel Association and is based on domestic visitor spending, defined by trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.

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