Virginia tourism spending pops above pre-pandemic levels

Domestic tourists generated $30.3 billion in visitor spending last year, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, up 20.3% from 2021 and 4.4% higher than Virginia tourism spending in 2019 — the year before the pandemic.

Continuing a trend that began in 2021 when travelers were looking for road trip destinations with outdoor activities, tourism spending on recreational activities in Virginia exceeded 2019 levels by 10%. Visitor spending on food and beverage in 2022 also exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Virginia spent more on tourism marketing last year, using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to advertise in new markets. Virginia Tourism Corp. said its decision resulted in reaching nearly 15 million more households than it did in 2021.

“By reaching more travelers in new markets, Virginia continues to raise awareness and consideration as a premier travel destination. This awareness results in increased bookings and arrivals, which, in turn, translates to increased visitor spending across the state, ” president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation Rita McClenny said.

Virginia tourists directly drove nearly $2.2 billion in state and local tax revenues last year, an increase of 19.1% from 2021. Overnight visitors also increased by 10% to 42.2 million, according to VTC’s economic impact research.

While tourist spending has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, tourism industry employment still lags.

Tourism directly supported about 211,000 jobs last year, 25,000 more than 2021, but still 30,000 fewer than 2019.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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