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New data shows Richmond area saw record $2.8 billion in tourism spending in 2021

Visitor spending amounts to $138.3 million in local tax and $78.6 million in state tax revenues.

Trevor Dickerson

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New data released this month shows positive momentum for the region’s growing tourism industry. Visitor spending increased 6.7% in 2021 compared to a pre-pandemic comparison in 2019, bringing in a record $2.8 billion for the local economy and supporting almost 24,000 jobs.

According to figures from Tourism Economics commissioned by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Richmond Region Tourism partner localities – including Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent counties, Richmond, Colonial Heights and the town of Ashland – generated a combined total of $2.8 billion across lodging, food and beverage, retail, recreation and transportation spending. The visitor spending amounts to $138.3 million in local tax and $78.6 million in state tax revenues.

Visitor spending in 2019 was $2.6 billion.

“This is another sign of our local tourism industry’s strength and resiliency,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “Tourism is an important economic engine that creates jobs, while supporting small businesses and our entire community. The latest numbers help highlight the Richmond Region as a thriving and welcoming destination that people want to experience.”

Richmond Region Tourism’s leaders point to sports tournaments and events, and an increased emphasis on promoting the region’s diversity as factors for the growth. Meetings and conventions, leisure, and friends and family travel also contributed to the gains.

An indicator of sports tourism’s expanding popularity across partner jurisdictions, sports tournaments represent 68% of Richmond Region Tourism’s overall group bookings as young athletes and families flock to the region for soccer, softball, baseball, lacrosse and other competitions.

Awareness about the region’s diversity is helping drive visitor interest as well, according to Richmond Region Tourism leaders. The organization launched BLK RVA with local community leaders in 2019 to celebrate the region’s Black community, businesses and culture. Visitor data from Longwoods International reveals travel by African-Americans to the Richmond Region is 27%, which is 12% higher compared to the national average. The BLK RVA campaign joins OutRVA, a program created to highlight the area’s LGBTQ community, in conjunction with Richmond Region Tourism’s overall focus to promote the region’s diverse community.

Local tourism continues to experience significant gains: Earlier this year, hotels in the Richmond Region set a new collective record for annual occupancy tax revenue. For the 2022 fiscal year ending this past June 30, total lodging tax revenue reached $30,817,871, edging the previous high in 2019 of $30,014,047.

Direct visitor spending (in millions) within the Richmond Region Tourism footprint for the calendar year 2021 is listed below:

 

Locality

 

Total Visitor Spending

 

Local Tax

Receipts

 

 

Employment

CHESTERFIELD$535.9$26.15,579
COLONIAL HEIGHTS$96.5$4.71,003
*HANOVER$204.2$9.21,926
HENRICO$1,350.4$61.58,760
NEW KENT$27.9$1.1203
RICHMOND CITY$643.5$35.66,437
Regional Total$2,858.4$138.323,908

*Hanover data includes Town of Ashland tourism numbers

All data was received by the VTC from Tourism Economics and is based on travelers from within the United States taking trips 50 miles or more away from home.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.