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Richmond area tourism spending tops $2.6 billion in 2018, new data show

With record-level growth, all of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities saw an increase in tourism compared to the previous year, resulting in $26 billion in travel spending statewide. Henrico County once again ranked fifth in the state for total domestic travel expenditures, with $964 million grossed.

RVAHub Staff

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Tourism continues to increase in the Richmond region. Data released by the United States Travel Association (US Travel) and commissioned by the Virginia Tourism Corporation reveals that Richmond Region Tourism partner localities – including the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan, the town of Ashland and the city of Richmond – generated nearly $2.6 billion in travel spending in 2018, representing a 5% increase compared to the same timeframe in 2017. Spending was bolstered by vigorous growth in annual visitors, totaling 7.7 million people last year.

With record-level growth, all of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities saw an increase in tourism compared to the previous year, resulting in $26 billion in travel spending statewide. Henrico County once again ranked fifth in the state for total domestic travel expenditures, with $964 million grossed.

Tourism data for 2018 within the Richmond Region Tourism footprint is listed below:

All data was received by the VTC from US Travel and is based on domestic visitor spending (travelers from within the United States) from trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.

“Tourism is a powerful economic engine for our region and boosts quality of life,” said Jack Berry, Richmond Region Tourism President & CEO. “Through innovative marketing and sales, the Richmond Region Tourism team works throughout the year to market the region to leisure travelers and meetings, conventions and tournaments. We’re excited to see the tourism industry’s continued growth and the positive impact it has on our community.”

For the first time, as reported in July, the collective occupancy tax for hotels in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond climbed past the $30 million mark in 2018, a total that marks a near 50 percent increase in just six years and a year-over-year jump of 2.06 percent.

“Once again, we’re seeing strong metrics for hotel and motel occupancy across the region,” said Parker Agelasto, Richmond Region Tourism board chairman. “The region’s authentic culture, rich history, and award-winning food scene, along with a growing list of sporting events and large conventions, help drive this notable growth.”

Tourism in the region supported the livelihood of more than 24,000 people through the creation of jobs in 2018 and generated more than $170 million in state and local taxes. Statewide, tourism resulted in 234,000 jobs and $1.78 billion in state and local taxes.

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RVA Illuminates and Holiday Lights on the Riverfront Throw the Switch on Friday

It’s about to get a lot brighter downtown.

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In the past when downtown lit up for the holidays it was a big event downtown. Due to Covid-19 that big event is not happening. The main event RVA Illuminates is going virtual and can be seen on ABC 8 News this Friday with performances and music.

Venture Richmond is hosting its own event, Holiday Lights on the Riverfront on Brown’s Island and along the Canal Walk to Brown’s Island from 6-8 PM on Friday.

​When downtown RVA lights up for the holiday season, Brown’s Island and the Turning Basin on the Canal Walk will join in the cheer and help the City of Richmond kick off the season with Holiday Lights on the Riverfront, a display of decorative lights that is open and FREE to the public! Enjoy vendors Espresso-A-Go-Go and Curbside Creations and family entertainer Jonathan the Juggler on Brown’s Island or take a festive stroll along the Canal Walk to the Turning Basin. Presented by Venture Richmond. Please practice safe social distancing. Parking is available at the American Civil War Museum ($), Belle Isle parking lot, and on-street parking along 2nd and 5th Streets.

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Virginia Opera Cancels Main Stage Performances for the 2020-2021 Season

VO General Director and CEO Peggy Kriha Dye: “Taking into consideration the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we regrettably acknowledge the impossibility of producing our 2020-2021 Season.”

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Today, Virginia Opera, The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, announces cancellation of all scheduled 2020–2021 Season productions due to the public safety concerns caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The determination follows a complete VO staff and Board review affecting statewide presentations in the Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, and Northern Virginia markets scheduled to begin February 2021.

VO General Director and CEO Peggy Kriha Dye: “Taking into consideration the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we regrettably acknowledge the impossibility of producing our 2020-2021 Season. Our dedication to following the necessary guidelines to ensure the safety of our patrons and artists overwhelms our immense desire to perform. In the coming months we will chart our path for the 2021-2022 Season and beyond, while doing all we can to stay connected to the communities we serve; digitally in the schools, virtually for everyone, and in safe environments.“

Virginia Opera Artistic Director, Adam Turner: “The performing arts have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. In the short-term we have compensated those artists affected by the season cancellation to the best of our ability. We now turn to providing new opportunities for much-needed work in our industry. This includes building on the success of our fall artist “Stayin’ Alive” residency, with a second initiative geared towards providing more outdoor performances and digital content beginning in spring 2021. We were able to reach a whole new audience this fall by taking opera out of the Opera House and to the streets, opening a door to this incredible art form for so many new faces, and we look forward to serving our communities again as soon as possible.”

Season ticketholders are already being contacted to address the disposition of their tickets with options that include early renewal for the 2021-2022 Season, the conversion of the fair value of the tickets to a donation in support of the VO, and a full-value refund of Season ticket purchases.

“Stayin’ Alive” – Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall artist residency included multiple digital performance and artist-driven content to be shared by the VO throughout the coming winter months. Additional online programs will also be forthcoming and information and schedules on all will be updated at Virginia Opera’s website – vaopera.org, as well as on the company’s Social Media channels.

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New report says legal state marijuana sales could overtake illegal trade by year four

Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

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By Sam Fowler

Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission released a report this month that explores how the commonwealth could legalize marijuana. The agency, however, did not give its take on legalization. Shortly after the report was released Gov. Ralph Northam announced that “it’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia.”

The state’s tax revenue could grow to between $150 million to more than $300 million by the fifth year of sales, according to JLARC. The revenue depends on the tax and demand of marijuana products.

 Most states with commercial marijuana markets tax the product between 20%-30% percent of the retail sales value, JLARC said. Colorado, one of the most mature and successful U.S. marijuana markets, currently has a tax rate close to 30%, showing that while the tax may be high, the market could still be successful, said Justin Brown, senior associate director at JLARC.

“But in reality, there’s no magic rate that you have to use, and I think that’s one thing that the other states’ experience shows,” Brown said.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year. The substance is still not legal, but possessing up to an ounce results in a $25 civil penalty and no jail time. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

If the Old Dominion makes marijuana legal, it will follow in the footsteps of 15 states.

The legal marijuana market should overtake the illegal market in marijuana sales by the fourth year of legalization, JLARC said. The legal market could likely have two-thirds of sales by the fifth year of legalization. JLARC looked at the reported use rates compared to the use rates of other states to determine this figure, Brown said.

“In the first year the minority of sales will be through the legal commercial market,” Brown said. “But then over time, particularly if supply and demand works out, you’ll capture at least the majority of the full market through the legal market.”

JLARC said that if the General Assembly legalizes marijuana, the total sales tax would come out to around 25%-30%. This figure also came from the analysis of other states and how they taxed marijuana.

The industry also could create over several years between 11,000 to more than 18,000 jobs, JLARC said. Most positions would pay below Virginia’s median wage.

The revenue would cover the cost of establishing a market by year three, according to JLARC.

Northam said in a press release last week that his administration is working with lawmakers to finalize related legislation in preparation for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 13.

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