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Another year of record hotel occupancy tax revenues signal strong tourism spending in Richmond area

The $35 million in 2023 lodging tax revenue eclipses 2022 levels by 16%.

Trevor Dickerson

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Richmond Region hotels set yet another year-over-year record for annual occupancy tax revenue. For the 2023 fiscal year that just concluded on June 30, the region’s hotels generated a total of $35,000,965 in lodging taxes, which represents a 16.36 percent increase from last year.

Total hotel revenues for the year topped $437 million among hotels in the city of Richmond and Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties.

“The Richmond Region’s momentum as a tourist destination continues to accelerate as we have seen back-to-back record years when it comes to hotel occupancy and revenues,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism, the nonprofit organization that promotes the region’s tourism on behalf of seven local jurisdictions. “But make no mistake: while our region enjoys a strong reputation for our historic, cultural, entertainment and natural resources, these unparalleled levels of occupancy tax revenue are the result of a strategic collaboration that our many partners help make possible.”

One of the cornerstones of the region’s tourism success is the Greater Richmond Convention Center (GRCC), the largest meeting and exhibition facility in the commonwealth.

The GRCC hosted 218 events in fiscal year 2023, a 21% increase compared to the previous year. More than 380,000 visitors traveled to the Richmond Region to take part in a meeting or conference at the GRCC last year.

Among the conferences hosted by GRCC during the past fiscal year were GalaxyCon, the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference and the Southeast Chapter of the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Women in Nuclear 2022 Conference.

Sports tourism continues to make a significant economic impact on the region. For example, the sector represents a full two-thirds (68%) of Richmond Region Tourism’s bookings.

The region hosted an array of collegiate, amateur and youth tournaments, particularly in softball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, swimming and field hockey. Events during 2022-2023 included the Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s and Women’s Cross-Country Championship, the U.S. Masters Swimming 2022 Summer Nationals and 2022 Shooting Star Field Hockey Tournament.

“We have seen extraordinary investments among the localities in recent years in expanding the sports tourism infrastructure in the region,” said Brandon Hinton, deputy county manager for administration in Henrico County and chair of the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority’s finance committee. “More playing fields and pitches, more sports complexes and courts, more biking trails and parks – all of those investments are putting us in a more competitive posture when vying for sports tourism dollars.”

Leaders expect new developments to support tourism growth in the coming years as well.

“The completion of the City Center development, which will include a large headquarters hotel and hundreds of additional hotel rooms, will put GRCC in a position to compete for more and larger conferences,” said Lincoln Saunders, chief administrative officer for the City of Richmond and chair of the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority (GRCCA), which provides oversight over the convention center. “The development will not only transform the city’s core but transform the capacity of the convention center to reach new heights. It will be nothing short of a game-changer.”

The region’s competitiveness also will be enhanced by the recent passage of the Tourism Improvement District (TID), a 2% self-assessment among Richmond-area hotels that is expected to generate as much as $8 million annually to buoy the promotion of the region as a visitor, conference and sports tourism destination.

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