LURAY, Va. – Tourism continued to have a strong positive economic impact on Virginia in 2019.
Last year, the Virginia tourism industry generated $27 billion in domestic travel spending. In the Shenandoah Valley region, tourism spending was up last year, from $1.5 billion in 2018 to $1.57 billion in 2019.*
Travelers spent $73 million a day in Virginia in 2019. According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic traveler spending in Virginia reached $27 billion, up 3.4% compared to 2018. Before the pandemic arrived, the travel industry in the Commonwealth had shown growth for ten years in a row.
Then came 2020, and the COVID pandemic which disrupted travel plans everywhere. In the United States, and in the smaller microcosm of the Shenandoah Valley, the tourism industry became one of the largest casualties of the coronavirus outbreak.
The recovery for the tourism industry is expected to extend well into 2023
Across the nation, accommodations, arts and entertainment, and food/beverage sectors are highly dependent on visitor spending. New data from Tourism Economics shows that, without immediate aid, 50% of all travel-supported jobs could be lost by the end of the year.
Tourism spending is predicted to remain well below normal levels for the next year or more as fear of the virus, economic uncertainty, and loss of income will linger after travel restrictions are eased. These factors will hamper the travel sector’s recovery, per a September 2020 report by Tourism Economics.
Tourism remains vital to the Shenandoah Valley’s prosperity
The economic health of the Shenandoah Valley has long been intertwined with the tourism industry. Fortunately, the Valley region is faring a bit better than some other locations as it is anchored by fresh-air outdoor spaces like national parks, national forests, and state parks. Visitation for these outdoor locations spiked during the summer after the stay at home order was lifted.
“Destinations that have gained the most visitation shares are national parks. In August, 22 percent of all trips taken by Americans were to national parks, thanks to the promise of isolated open spaces that parks have to offer.” – Skift
In Shenandoah National Park, visitation was up 38.6% this July compared to July 2019. The park’s busiest month — October — has yet to be tallied and it typically brings in about 24% of the park’s yearly visitor totals.
Gateway communities in the Shenandoah Valley like Front Royal, Luray, Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro benefit broadly from visitation to Shenandoah National Park. In 2019, travelers spent $96.7 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,190 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $129 million.
With plentiful cabins and scenic homes for rent, the Shenandoah Valley is emerging as one of the nation’s less densely populated “pandemic migration” destinations, according to a new study from Airbnb.
“From a tourism marketing perspective, we’re focusing on promoting the Shenandoah Valley as a great outdoor-oriented place for a getaway. Our audience is the leisure traveler in the mid-Atlantic drive market,” said John Robbins, spokesperson for SVTA. The tourism organization launched a digital campaign in June and will continue through mid-November, and possibly longer.
“Despite growing pessimism about the pandemic’s course, Americans’ perceptions of travel safety, their confidence in traveling safely, and their readiness to travel continued to improve. More than 40% anticipate their next trip will take place before the end of the year.” – Destination Analysts
* 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.
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. For nearly a century, SVTA has been promoting the diversity, accessibility, and splendor of the Shenandoah Valley to domestic and international visitors. The Valley’s year-round destination offers some of the East Coast’s most spectacular natural landscapes, outstanding outdoor recreation, historic site and attractions. Plus there are charming small cities surrounded by working farms, orchards, vineyards, and craft breweries. More information at VisitShenandoah.org and VisitSkylineDrive.org
- SVTA Media Relations: Kathy Moore, 540-255-2662