SHENANDOAH VALLEY, VA — With the iconic tourism campaign, Virginia is For Lovers, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, now seems a good time to take stock in what tourism means to the Shenandoah Valley.
The economic health of the Valley has long been intertwined with the tourism industry. The region is rich in natural beauty, heritage, and culture which all serve to attract visitors.
The Shenandoah Valley Travel Association was formed in 1924 (as Shenandoah Valley, Inc.) to promote tourism to the region. The 1920s and 1930s saw the construction of a number of major hotels in cities and towns like Winchester, Harrisonburg, Luray, and Staunton as well as the authorization of Shenandoah National Park.
Over the last 95 years, the tourism industry in the Valley has continued to expand and diversify. Tourism now generates a significant positive economic impact on our community.
Nearly 500 new hotel rooms have been added in the Shenandoah Valley over the past few years, and hundreds more will be coming online in 2020. The ripple effect of this lodging increase will add more tourism-related businesses and increase the number of tourism and hospitality jobs. According to the Virginia Employment Commission’s projections, the number of jobs in tourism and hospitality is expected to grow 12% between 2016 and 2026.
“While the scenic beauty is a longstanding draw for tourists, outdoor recreation and associated events are becoming more and more prevalent. Triathlons, adventure races, cycling events, etc. bring thousands of participants to the Valley all year, benefitting both major cities and small, rural towns. And considering the increase in vineyards and craft breweries, plus music festivals, museums, and fine restaurants, there are more reasons than ever to visit the Shenandoah Valley,” says John Robbins of the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association (SVTA).
Recent data provided by the U.S. Travel Association indicates that the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia generated $1.5 billion in direct visitor spending in 2018. And travel continues to rise. The U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI) marks the industry’s 116th straight month of growth for travel to and within the United States.
Expenditures for anchor cities throughout the Shenandoah Valley continue to trend up over time. In looking at the most recently available figures (2018 over 2017), the Virginia Tourism Corporation reports Staunton is up 5.8% ($51,655,044 in 2018), Harrisonburg is up 5.3% ($131,396,786 in 2018), Winchester is up 4.4% ($122,110,543 in 2018), and Lexington is up 3.9% ($35,501,401 in 2018). These expenditures represent direct spending by domestic travelers including food, accommodations, auto transportation, public transportation, incidental purchases, entertainment/recreation, and travel generated tax receipts.
Virginia’s tourism industry generated a record $26 billion in tourist spending in 2018. Tourists are defined as those who were either on an overnight trip or traveled 50 miles or more away from home. Domestic tourists spend roughly $71 million/day in Virginia. Tourism is the fifth-largest employer in Virginia, supporting 234,000 jobs statewide, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
In addition to diversifying and strengthening the local economic base, tourism can also increase community visibility, add cultural and art assets, and generate new economic development inquiries.
About Shenandoah Valley Travel Association (SVTA)
Founded in 1924, SVTA is one of the oldest regional tourism promotional organizations of its kind in the United States. The association promotes the tourism assets of the beautiful and historic Shenandoah Valley to the rest of the world. Our beautiful year-round destination offers some of the East Coast’s most spectacular natural landscapes, outstanding outdoor recreation, historic sites and attractions, plus charming small cities surrounded by working farms, orchards, vineyards, and craft breweries. VisitShenandoah.org and VisitSkylineDrive.org