Tourists spend $58M

Published 10:54 am Friday, October 14, 2011

COURTLAND—Judy Riddick’s businesses depends on tourists.

“We’re out here, in the county,” said Riddick, president of the Peanut Patch gift shop outside Courtland. “We’re not in town where you get walk-in traffic so consequently we depend on the traveling public.”

While she believes she saw more tourists at her Highway 58 store in 2010 compared to 2009, the state would agree. According to numbers released Wednesday by Gov. Bob McDonnell, tourists spent nearly $58 million in Western Tidewater in 2010, up from $53.6 million on year earlier.

Southampton County saw tourists spend $12.7 million in 2010 compared to $12 million in 2009.

In Franklin, tourists spent $12 million in 2010 compared to $11.3 million one year earlier, while in Isle of Wight County, spending by tourists increased from $30.3 million in 2009 to $33.2 in 2010.

Lisa Perry, director of economic development in Isle of Wight County, credited the Smithfield & Isle of Wight Convention and Visitor Bureau for the $2.9 million increase in spending last year.

“(It’s) because of the extraordinary efforts of our tourism department in terms of creativity,” Perry said. “That’s one creative group of professionals.”

“I’ve been working in economic development for 20-plus years and love what they do,” she added. “They love the hospitality industry and they plan their events the way they would like to plan a party at their homes.”

Amanda Jarratt, manager of marketing for Franklin Southampton Economic Development, was thrilled with the numbers.

“In 2009 it dropped down from 2008, and in 2010, the city and county are back at those 2008 levels,” Jarratt said.

She believes the small-town atmosphere and the amenities bring tourists to Western Tidewater.

“We also have a tourism steering committee, a group of business owners, who have really pulled together and are working to improve our place on the map,” she said.

Jarratt also believes the somewhat improved economy helped make 2010 a better year.

Visitors to Virginia generated $18.9 billion in revenue in 2010, a 6.7 percent increase over 2009. In 2010, tourism in Virginia supported 204,000 jobs and provided more than $1.3 billion in state and local taxes.

In Western Tidewater in 2010:

• Isle of Wight County saw a payroll $6.6 million from the tourism industry, which employed 370. More than $1.5 million in sales taxes were collected and $780,000 in local taxes.

• Southampton County saw a payroll of $2.62 million from tourism; the industry employed 140. More than $650,000 in sales taxes were collected and $250,000 in local taxes.

• Franklin saw a payroll of $2.18 million from tourism; the industry employed 120. More than $720,000 in sales taxes were collected and $480,000 in local taxes.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation receives its annual economic impact data from the U.S. Travel Association. The information is based on domestic visitor spending from per person trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.