Tourism revenue for the five-county area of the Northern Neck reached $287,500,408, a 2.4% increase over 2018. In King George, Westmoreland, Lancaster, Northumberland and Richmond counties combined, tourism-supported jobs totaled 2,754 while local tourism-related taxes were $7,830,355.
According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), tourism in Virginia generated $27 billion in visitor spending in 2019. The tourism industry also supported 237,000 jobs for Virginia communities and provided $1.8 billion in state and local revenue. Virginia ranks 8th in the nation for domestic travel spending. All data is from the U.S. Travel Association and is based on domestic visitor spending from trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.
The travel industry in the Commonwealth has continued to grow 10 years in a row with a compound annual growth rate of 3.9 percent since 2010. However, these figures do not account for the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry.
Northern Neck Tourism Commission (NNTC) Chair Karen Hart notes that “many museums and businesses have been unable to reopen during the pandemic, and events and fundraisers have been canceled or changed to carry-out models. To engage visitors – in-person or online – in the stories that are the heritage of the Northern Neck, museums banded together for the Northern Neck Scavenger Hunt and will continue to coordinate on similar efforts to maintain the collaboration achieved over the last several years, which has been successful in encouraging repeat visitors to the Northern Neck.”
The coronavirus pandemic put the Virginia travel and tourism industry in crisis, and imposed a devastating strain on Virginia’s hotels, restaurants, attractions and communities. The pandemic caused decreased revenue and a reduced workforce, while some businesses have been forced to shut down temporarily, if not completely. As a result, early numbers for 2020 project a sharp decrease in tourism spending.
As the Commonwealth continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19, the pandemic has further emphasized the stark contrast in 2019 and 2020 and that statewide economic revival cannot occur without the recovery of the travel industry.
Many tourism stakeholders in the Northern Neck, including wineries, lodgings, restaurants, historic sites and parks have responded by offering curbside delivery, outside dining, audio tours, grounds passes, and canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard rentals to provide the high quality visitor experience for which the Northern Neck is known with the safety precautions demanded by the pandemic.
While the coronavirus has had a significant impact on Virginia’s tourism economy, the industry remains hopeful for a robust return in the future. Tourism will be key to economic recovery as the pandemic stabilizes and leisure and business travel resumes. As Americans begin to travel again, the Northern Neck intends to help restore the tourism economy into the economic engine it always has been.
The Northern Neck Tourism Commission is a destination management organization, which promotes activities and experiences offered within the Northern Neck Heritage Area. The NNTC maintains a website, northernneck.org, and digital media channels and publishes a brochure distributed throughout the Commonwealth. The NNTC is comprised of 15 members, appointed by the Boards of Supervisors in the five participating counties.