Loudoun County leads Virginia for tourism spending (but it gets to count the airport)

Loudoun County, Virginia, accounted for 13.2% of tourism spending in the Commonwealth in 2022, the most of any Virginia county, largely from Dulles International Airport.

Tourism spending includes the transportation category, so Loudoun County’s tourism spending includes landing fees and other fees at Dulles, which airlines pay. It does not include prices paid for airfare.

Tourism transportation spending covers trips of more than 50 miles.

The county’s tourism revenue topped $4 billion in 2022. Transportation accounted for $2.4 billion, according to data collected by Tourism Economics, which conducts tourism research.

While air travel continued to be a big share of tourism spending in the county, tourism spending in general was also up considerably in 2022.

“While Dulles Airport is clearly an economic engine for the region, we continue to see an uptick across the board, with a 29% growth in spending in our lodging, restaurants and craft beverage segments; while our recreation and retail segments saw a 28.8% and 15.7% increase over 2021 respectively,” said Visit Loudoun president and CEO Beth Erickson.

It also credits the increase in tourism spending in Loudoun County last year to the opening of Metro’s Silver Line.

Visit Loudoun touts jobs supported by the tourism industry at 17,134 jobs in 2022, up 26.6%, representing $988 million in salaries and wages, $136 million in local taxes and $72.6 million in state taxes.

Statewide, tourism spending in Virginia totaled $30.3 billion in 2022, supporting almost 211,000 jobs. While that is 25,000 more jobs than 2021, it is still down by 30,000 compared to 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia’s leading tourism sectors are recreation and food and beverage, where spending in both categories has exceeded 2019 levels by 10%.

Dulles is bringing more international tourists to the state. According to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Dulles has added more international flights since 2019 than any other U.S. airport, making it the fastest-growing international gateway in the country.

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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