Sep 28, 2023 - News

Richmond area tourism saw big increase last year

Image: Courtesy of Richmond Region Tourism

Tourist spending in the Richmond region is back, baby.

Driving the news: The Richmond region saw $3.5 billion in visitor spending last year, a 22% increase over 2021 ā€” and a 10% increase over the 2019 figures, aka before the pandemic.

  • Inflation was part of what drove the billions in spending, Richmond Region Tourism's VP Katherine O'Donnell tells Axios, but the figures are still good news for Richmond.

Why it matters: Tourism pumps millions into local economies through direct spending at hotels, restaurants and shops, plus tax revenue to local governments from those purchases.

  • And tourism supports about 27,000 Richmond-area jobs, according to RRT, the local tourism organization.

Sports tourism ā€” that is, youth athletes and their families traveling to the region to compete in soccer, softball, basketball and lacrosse tournaments ā€” continues to be the biggest driver of visitation to the region, per RRT.

Data: Richmond Region Tourism; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Richmond Region Tourism; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: Nearly half the tourism dollars in the region went to Henrico, which raked in $1.7 billion in direct visitor spending last year, driven largely by the 136 outdoor tournaments it hosted last, per the county.

To put it in context, Henrico saw more spending from tourists last year than the entire 14-town Shenandoah Valley region, according figures from Virginia Tourism.

Be smart: Northern Virginia continues to be the perennial leader in the state for visitor spending.

  • It pulled in 45% of tourism spending in the state last year.
  • Hampton Roads followed at 21%, and the Richmond region was next at 18%.
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