Sit and sip a while

State’s growing number of wineries and breweries draw tourists

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires
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Stone Brewing is one of many new brewhouses
across the state. Photo by Rick DeBerry

The tourism industry continues to grow in Virginia.   It’s already the state’s fifth-largest private employer, and that number is trending up as the tourism and hospitality sectors add new hotels and food and beverage attractions.

The most recent economic impact data show that in 2015 domestic visitors spent nearly $23 billion in Virginia, a 2.3 percent increase over 2014. That spending supported 223,100 jobs and contributed $1.6 billion in state and local taxes.

One thing’s for sure: People have no shortage of places to visit when it comes to food and drink. Virginia’s profile as a national tourism mecca is on the rise with the state’s growing selection of restaurants, breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries. People can sit and sip in urban and rural settings and dine on everything from Virginia oysters to peanut soup.   

In Richmond, California-based Stone Brewing opened a 220,000-square-foot East Coast production facility along with a store and tasting room. Meanwhile, two new breweries are on the way to the Roanoke region. San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits is investing about $48 million to build an East Coast brewing operation in Botetourt County, while Oregon-based Deschutes selected Roanoke for an $85 million production facility. 

Virginia’s wine industry alone draws more than 2 million visitors a year and contributes nearly $1.4 billion to Virginia’s economy. That’s an increase of 82 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to a recent study commissioned by the Virginia Wine Board.  Today, visitors have 261 Virginia wineries to pick from. They employ more than 8,200 people, with vineyards acting as important job creators in rural areas. 

The state expects two major hotel openings this year.  A $150 million luxury hotel and conference center, The Main, is scheduled to open in downtown Norfolk on April 3. The 21-story project includes a 300-room Hilton-branded hotel, a 42,000-square-foot conference center owned by the city, several restaurants and a rooftop bar. The developer is Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key| PHR Resorts, based in Virginia Beach. Thompson also is the force behind the renovation of the Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach, which has delayed its expected spring reopening and hopes to open by year-end.

New product is an important industry driver as Virginia seeks to draw conference business. State properties compete for conventions with out of state resorts like MGM National Harbor, a new hotel and casino in Prince George’s County, Md.  The Las Vegas-style resort opened in December.

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