Economic impacts from tourism in the Lynchburg region exceeded $500 million in 2015, according to a report from the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
The tourism industry employed about 5,334 people in the city of Lynchburg and counties of Nelson, Campbell, Bedford, Amherst and Appomattox. The industry also generated more than $17 million in local taxes for the area last year.
The data, released in September, represents estimates of direct spending by visitors from at least 50 miles away, including food, accommodations, auto transportation, public transportation, incidental purchases, entertainment and recreation, according to VTC.
Region generated more than $500 dollars in 2015
Reporter: Margaret Carmel
Lynchburg News & Advance
October 14, 2016
The city of Lynchburg and Nelson County combined saw total spending from visitors nearly $370 million, with $176,856,705 and $190,973,532, respectively. Bedford County came in third for the region with $101,015,681. All three localities have seen growth in tourism dollars spent of more than 10 percent since 2011.
According to Sergei Troubepzkoy, director of Lynchburg’s Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, much of the city’s growth comes from sporting events and conferences being held in Lynchburg.
“Lynchburg is in a great location to attract statewide conferences because [organizers] like picking communities that are centrally located,” he said. “Getting some events like the Commonwealth Games has certainly helped.”
Troubepzkoy also pointed to the revitalization of the downtown area as a draw for tourists, both first-time visitors and people who have not visited in a long time.
“We consistently hear that [visitors] are surprised by what they see,” he said. “There has been so much change in such a short amount of time. One thing we hear consistently is how impressed with what they’re seeing they are, particularly with the downtown area. I think that’s helping to grab their attention.”
As opposed to the growing downtown area and development surrounding Liberty University that attracts visitors to Lynchburg, Nelson’s growth has come from tourists seeking outdoor recreation and natural beauty.
“We are known for our pristine landscapes, craft food and beverages, and we are known as a destination for lifestyle music events,” said Maureen Kelley, director of tourism and economic development for Nelson County.
Part of the Brew Ridge Beer Trail passes through Nelson, which guides beer enthusiasts to several breweries throughout the county. Nelson also has hosted the Lock’n music festival since 2013, which brings thousands of music enthusiasts to Arrington for several days of music.
Beginning in 2006, Nelson County started laying the groundwork to grow their tourism industry, Kelley said.
With tourist attractions like the Appomattox Court House and the Peaks of Otter and the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford in surrounding counties where hotel rooms are scarcer, many visitors to the region stay in Lynchburg in order to visit the neighboring localities, Troubepzkoy said.
Hotel occupancy rates in Lynchburg have remained steady at 59 percent in a year-over-year comparison between August 2016 and August 2015 in data collected by STR Inc., a travel research firm. The study also found the average price paid for a hotel room has risen slightly over the same time period.
Despite the steady occupancy rate, Troubepzkoy said this is a positive indication due to the construction of several hotels in the past year.
“We’ve been increasing the number of rooms, but our occupancy is staying the same, so we’re building occupancy,” he said. “Even though we’re constantly building rooms, we have no problem selling those rooms.”
The increase in regional tourism comes amid a statewide increase in tourism spending, which saw an increase from $19.2 billion in 2008 to $22.9 billion in 2015. According to VTC, tourism spending contributed $1.6 billion in state and local taxes for Virginia in 2015.
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