Though still down from pre-pandemic levels and having fallen behind Loudoun County to the No. 2 position statewide, tourism spending in Arlington rebounded in 2021 and continues to help fill county-government coffers, according to new state data.
Arlington garnered $2.835 billion in tourism revenue in 2021, according to figures reported Oct. 4 by the Virginia Tourism Corp., representing 11.2 percent of all statewide domestic-tourism spending for the year.
That’s up nearly 49 percent from 2020, but remains below the $3.55 billion reported in 2019, before the arrival of the pandemic.
Arlington frequently has battled Fairfax County for receipt of the most tourism and convention revenue in a given year, and again bested Fairfax ($2.4 billion) in 2021. But Arlington fell below Loudoun County, which reported $3.04 billion in 2021.
Why did Arlington fall behind Loudoun? Because Arlington’s figures traditionally include revenue at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which saw more prolonged stagnation after the onset of the pandemic compared to Washington Dulles International Airport, whose revenues are allocated to Loudoun County.
Also at the top of the list:
• Virginia Beach saw $2.12 billion in tourism spending for the year.
• Henrico County saw $1.35 billion.
• Norfolk saw $1.13 billion.
Statewide, Virginia’s tourism revenues reached $25.2 billion in 2021, marking an 87-percent recovery to pre-pandemic spending that occurred in 2019.
“Tourism has seen an incredible comeback thanks to the hardworking leaders in the travel and tourism industry across Virginia,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corp. “As travelers continue to visit communities across the state, Virginia is on pace to restore the tourism industry into the vibrant and highly performing economic engine it always has been.
After the initial blast of COVID shock subsided, Virginia was able to benefit from increased domestic tourism. Coastal Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge regions contributed most significantly to the overall recovery in the commonwealth, even as Northern Virginia lagged.
“Virginia is uniquely positioned geographically and is within a day’s drive from nearly half of the U.S. population,” tourism officials said. “As road trips boomed, many Virginia regions were able to reap the benefits of increased travel.”
The annual report looks at tourist and convention spending in areas including transportation, lodging, retail and recreation. It also reports estimated employment levels related to tourism.
The report estimated that tourism spending in Arlington brought in $114.2 million in local taxes and $54.4 million in state taxes for the year.
The annual report is conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Travel Association. For full data, see the Website at https://vatc.org/research/economicimpact.