Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 9, 2012

Success story — Tourism big business in Tazewell

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— In another positive sign for the Commonwealth of Virginia, localities across the state reported tourism revenue increases in 2011. And tourism revenue in Virginia topped $20 billion during the reporting period, according to Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The tourism industry generated $20.4 billion in new revenue for Virginia in 2011, an 8 percent increase over 2010. Tourism also supported 207,000 jobs in the Commonwealth and provided $1.32 billion in state and local taxes. That makes tourism the third largest industry in Virginia, according to the governor’s office.

Even more promising is the tourism growth reported in Southwest Virginia. As an example, tourism revenue in Tazewell County reached $47.51 million in 2011, which is an impressive 5.1 percent increase over 2010.

Local tourism-supported jobs totaled 570 while local tourism-related taxes were $642,499, according to a report compiled by Tazewell County Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator Margie Douglass.

The data is based upon domestic visitor spending from persons taking trips of at least 50 miles or more away from home.

County Administrator Jim Spencer correctly argues that tourism has become a significant component to the local economy. “It provides instant revenue for the area and contributes to the quality of life to the residents,” Spencer said. “The support of the local officials and the dedication of the stakeholders who contribute to the tourism industry are to be commended.”

Continued support from lawmakers in Richmond has also helped to sustain a strong and growing tourism market for Southwest Virginia, according to Rita McClenny, interim president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.  

“The support that we’ve received from the governor’s administration and the General Assembly has been essential to keeping tourism strong — especially during challenging economic times,” McClenny said. “This new economic impact data shows that the investment is paying off and that Virginia’s tourism industry is headed in the right direction.”

We agree. And the sky could be the limit when it comes to tourism growth in Southwest Virginia in the coming years. Factor in the new multi-county Spearhead Trails project, and a possible connector system between the Spearhead Trails near Pocahontas and the existing Hatfield-McCoy Trails in Bramwell, and the growth potential could be further amplified.

The scenic hills and rolling valleys of Southwest Virginia, including areas such as Thompson Valley and Burkes Garden in Tazewell County, are great local tourism destinations. So is the Historic Crab Orchard Museum in Tazewell, the Historic Pocahontas Exhibition Mine in Pocahontas, the historic Sanders House in Bluefield, Va., and the official state Coal Miner’s Memorial in Richlands. Area residents who have not yet visited these local attractions are urged to do so today.

We welcome the tourism growth reported in Virginia, and look forward to continued local success in this all-important industry.