Tourism revenue on the rise

James Madison’s Montpelier and other local attractions helped drive local tourism revenue up more than 5% in 2018. 

Tourism revenues in Orange County increased more than 5% in 2018 to $51.3 million, according to data recently released by the United States Travel Association (USTA). 

Data collected by the organization revealed that every region in Virginia showed gains in tourism revenue when compared to 2017.

Locally, tourism-related taxes generated nearly $1.5 million and supported 613 jobs in the community.

“This most recent data confirms tourism’s contribution to the county’s growing economy and highlights the contributions of local businesses that serve our community and visitors,” Orange County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Jim White said.

“Orange County’s growing tourism industry is the result of our passionate business owners striving to provide quality experiences, nonprofit organizations supporting and preserving our cherished historic treasures, arts and culture, and many local volunteers donating hundreds of hours a year to support our destinations,” Orange County Tourism Manager Lori Landes-Carter added. “All these elements weave together to create a rich tapestry that strengthens our community and place in Central Virginia and the state.”

The growth from 2017 to 2018 far outstripped local tourism economy gains from the period before. Tourism revenue grew only 0.9% from 2016 to 2017, with tourism-related payroll barely growing at 1%. Meanwhile, there were fewer tourism jobs in 2017 than in 2016, while state and local tourism-related tax receipts declined.

Not so for the following year. Tourism-related payroll increased from $11.9 million to $12.4 million (4.5%), while jobs increased 2%, with state and local taxes increasing more than 3% each. In 2018, Orange County collected nearly $2.2 million in tourism-related state taxes and an additional $1.48 million in local tourism-related taxes.

Data is based on domestic visitor spending from trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.

“I feel like this is a litmus test for how we’re doing overall,” Carter said. “It’s great news, but also a good indicator of our overall economic health.”

She attributed a share of the positive growth to the success of local tourism-related businesses.

“I feel like some of our local businesses just started hitting their sweet spots in 2018,” she said. “They got over their growing pains and were in that critical five-year mark—the point where they’re really starting to grow.”

She cited the thriving local winery industry, the popularity of downtown Gordonsville and Orange County’s emergence as a destination wedding location as additional factors contributing to the economic growth.

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations, such as Montpelier, The Arts Center In Orange, Germanna Foundation and Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, all contribute to the health of the county’s tourism-based economy, she added.

“So many of the volunteers at those organizations have a part in this because they help the county’s visitors have such great experiences,” she continued.

“Collectively, Orange County provides a quality tourism experience and that creates referrals and more people come,” she said.

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