Though still down from pre-pandemic levels, Fairfax County continued to make inroads in terms of rebounding tourism spending in 2021, according to new state figures.
Domestic visitors spent an estimated $2.4 billion in Fairfax County in 2021, up more than 22 percent from 2020, according to figures reported Oct. 4 by the Virginia Tourism Corp.
Fairfax’s total represented 9.5 percent of all statewide tourism spending recorded for the year.
Though well up from the COVID-laced year of 2020, it remains below the $3.43 billion reported in 2019, before the arrival of the pandemic.
Fairfax County frequently has battled neighboring Arlington for receipt of the most tourism and convention revenue in a given year. In 2021, Fairfax ended up in the third slot, behind Loudoun County ($3.04 billion) and Arlington ($2.83 billion).
Why did Loudoun rise to the top to supplant both Arlington and Fairfax? Credit Washington Dulles International Airport, whose revenues generally are allocated to Loudoun County in the rankings.
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 Highlands 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 Fairfax brought in $129 million in local taxes and $75.7 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.