Tourists spend nearly $62M in region last year

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, September 19, 2012


FRANKLIN—While Western Tidewater saw spending from tourists increase 5 percent in 2011 from 2010, Alphabet Soup owner Gerry Patnesky said her gift shop did not reap the rewards.

Patnesky said she counts on local dollars and isn’t sure why tourists do not frequent her downtown Franklin store.

Nonetheless, tourists spent $61.7 million in Western Tidewater on entertainment, lodging, meals and shopping in 2011, up from $58 million in 2010, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp.

The City of Franklin saw a 5.7 percent increase in tourism-related spending last year compared to 2010. Southampton County had 8.1 percent increase and Isle of Wight, 7.2 percent. Specifically, $12.6 million was spent last year in the city. Southampton got $13.6 million and Isle of Wight saw $35.6 million.

Amanda Jarratt, president and chief executive officer for Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc., called the news “great.”

“It shows that we’re highlighting our local assets,” Jarratt said. “We need to support our tourism-based businesses to ensure they stay successful.”

She said brochures were put out last year at Virginia welcome centers to let travelers know what’s available in this region.

“Local businesses do a lot to show what Franklin and Southampton have to offer,” Jarratt said.

Lisa Perry, director of economic development for Isle of Wight said tourism is a significant part of the county’s economy.

“The community, by which I mean the county, has businesses in and around that have invested in a lot of things,” Perry said. “We know the assets, such as waterways and a very rural community. There are historic resources to attract people, such as Windsor Castle.”

“Couple that with some wonderful lodging at local inns and restaurants, like Taste of Smithfield, and you give people a reason to come and see you,” she continued.

Perry said referrals from neighboring communities such as Williamsburg also help bring people to the county.