The latest numbers are in for tourism in Virginia, and they bear good news for Culpeper County.
Tourism revenue for Culpeper climbed to $44.51 million in 2018, a 4.3 percent increase over 2017, the United States Travel Association reported. That equals $121,954 per day in spending in Culpeper by domestic travelers, which supported $8.7 million in local payroll, up 3.5 percent from 2017.
The new figures mean tourism again made critical contributions to the local economy in 2018, supporting 420 local jobs and pumping $997,215 in tourism-related taxes into town and county coffers, the town’s economic development staff said Tuesday. Together, Culpeper and the state received $2.85 million in taxes from tourism here, up 2.5 percent from 2017.
“2018 was a great year for Culpeper,” said Paige Read, director of tourism and economic development for the town of Culpeper. “We were named ‘The Prettiest Town in Virginia’ by Architectural Digest, along with ‘The most Underrated Town in Virginia’ by House Method. And it’s easy to agree with both. Culpeper is surprisingly humble. We are a small town, filled with small businesses who support one another.”
In 2018, the Culpeper Visitor Center—in the historic railroad depot at East Davis and Commerce streets—hosted more than 33,000 visitors. Twenty-three percent visited to dine and shop downtown, Read said. Twenty percent visited to learn about history and heritage.
Growth categories for Culpeper include weddings, nature and outdoor recreation, libations (wine, craft beer and distilled spirits), agritourism and film and music, USTA reported.
“When we opened in 2005, we were one of three restaurants,” said Frank Maragos, chef and owner of Foti’s Restaurant on East Davis Street. “Now, 14 years later, there are 17 of us in three blocks, all producing great food. It’s wonderful. We all work together to deliver the Culpeper experience, and it’s working. Just this past year we have seen more and more folks visiting from Northern Virginia, D.C. and beyond.”
Read said Culpeper’s shops, shops, chefs, artists and producers all want to see one another succeed.
“It’s refreshing and noble,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words, and best understood through experience. You’ll see it in the nuances of complementary window displays. You’ll hear it when a server speaks about another establishment’s dishes. You’ll witness the camaraderie of locals coming together after long days and sharing stories over good food and drink. The sense of community pride is palpable and a joy to behold.”
The Culpeper revenue number is right in line with the statewide figure. Virginia’s tourism industry generated $26 billion in visitor spending across all communities in 2018, a 4.4 percent increase over 2017.
The travel industry is the fifth-largest employer in Virginia.
Among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Virginia ranks eighth in the total of domestic travelers’ spending.
Statewide, the tourism industry provided $1.8 billion in state and local revenue in 2018, an increase of 2.9 percent compared to 2017.
Across Virginia, tourism is at a record level, with visitor spending continuing to grow year after year.
Demand for travel is at an all-time high with people’s increased mobility, more sophisticated technology, and the nation’s changing demographics, the Virginia Tourism Corp. said in a statement. Travelers seek unique experiences in their leisure hours, and view travel as an important factor for their quality of life, the state agency said.
Every region in Virginia saw tourism revenue increase last year, the USTA data shows.
Virginia tourism generated $26 billion in travel spending, the U.S. Travel Association said. It supported 235,000 work opportunities for Virginia communities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes.
USTA largely attributed the revenue increase to Virginia’s tourism promotion and development efforts around the state, including new hotels, restaurants, agritourism, craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries, sports, outdoor recreation, festivals and events, music venues, wedding venues, attractions, and meeting and convention venues.
Virginia’s changing tourism industry makes the commonwealth a destination for authentic travel experiences and vibrant communities.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ and the tourism industry’s continued growth this year, we also celebrate the people who impact and influence our communities with their vision, passion, and love for the tourism industry,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corp. “Our industry is made up of creative, hard-working, and dedicated professionals, and they work every day to make our communities more vibrant and dynamic. They help to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and visit, and are our most powerful ambassadors for ‘Virginia is for Lovers.’ ”
The slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” was developed in 1969 by Richmond-based advertising firm Martin & Woltz, now the Martin Agency. It is the longest-running state tourism slogan in the country.
Destinations around the state are participating in the commemoration of “50 Years of LOVE” and celebrating the impact that tourism has on Virginia’s economy and communities.
The 2018 data was received by Virginia Tourism Corp. from the U.S. Travel Association, based on domestic visitor spending on per-person trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.
Economic impact data by locality is available on vatc.org, under Research.