Attracting visitors and accolades

State’s tourism industry continues to grow, buoyed by food and drink

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires
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Virginia has been named one of the world’s top food destinations.
Photo courtesy Virginia Tourism Corp.

When people go on vacation, or take a day off to relax, that’s good news for Virginia. In 2014, domestic travelers spent $61 million a day, helping to net the state’s tourism industry $22.4 billion in revenue, an increase of 4.1 percent over 2013.

In all, tourism supported 216,000 jobs that year, making the industry Virginia’s fifth largest private employer. 

While most of the commonwealth’s tourists are U.S. residents, it welcomed 413,000 foreign visitors in 2014, a 17 percent increase from 2013.

Tourism generated $1.5 billion in tax revenue for the state and local governments in 2014, up 5.6 percent over 2013. This revenue stream flows from visits to Virginia’s attractions — its mountains, beaches, historical sites, wineries, breweries and an increasingly well-known food scene.

Virginia kicked off 2016 with an important accolade. It was named one of the world’s top food destinations by National Geographic magazine. In a story about where to travel for food around the globe, Richmond was included with the likes of Sicily and Marrakesh, Morocco. The article said Richmond’s blend of English, Native American and African-American influences helped it stand out.  

As Virginia chefs continue to gain notice, the attention shines a light on the state’s homegrown meat, oyster and beverage industries, as well as farmers markets, with chefs locally sourcing many of their ingredients.

Virginia also is home to The Inn at Little Washington in Northern Virginia. Its dining room is AAA’s longest-tenured Five Diamond Award restaurant, earning the top rating every year since 1989.

So it’s no wonder that “Virginia is for Food Lovers” is one of the new taglines from the Virginia Tourism Corp., the state agency charged with marketing the industry. In a play on the 46-year-old “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, the tagline is being applied to many areas including “Virginia is for Wine Lovers,” “Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers” and “Virginia is for Music Lovers” — a nod to the state’s 300-mile Crooked Road country music trail.

So let’s raise a glass to kicking back and having fun, as Virginia continues to hone its reputation as a tourism mecca that is helping to grow the state’s economy.

STORY: Plan for high-speed rail from Richmond to Washington, D.C., is chugging along. by Jack Cooksey

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