Virginia’s tourism industry is losing money due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The industry brings billions of revenue into Virginia each year, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp. and travel spending plummeted in March.
The U.S. Travel Association says travel spending in Virginia plummeted after stay-at-home orders were announced around the country.
Spending was $521 million in Virginia the first week of March, but dipped to $119 million by the end of the month.
Compared to last year’s numbers, travel spending in the state was down 78 percent the last week in March.
The Virginia Tourism Corp. says tourism pulled in $26 billion in 2018 and accounted for 234,000 jobs.
Andrew Cothern, communications manager for VTC, said Virginia attracts so many tourists because it has something for everyone.
“Virginia has a lot of different travel opportunities, whether the traveler’s interested in history or outdoor recreation or dining,” Cothern said. “There’s a lot of different reasons why people want to come to Virginia.”
Cothern said that COVID-19 has changed everything.
“With the COVID-19 crisis going on, a lot of people are not traveling, obviously, and it’s closed down a lot of business,” Cothern said.
The businesses hardest hit will be the ones that usually attract large crowds, he said. This might include museums, theaters, parks, restaurants and wineries. VTC, and others in the tourism industry, are working to make some of these experiences virtual and earn a little revenue.
Virginia State Parks have also taken a hit from COVID-19. The 38 parks attract 11 million visitors annually, with 45% of park spending coming from out-of-state visitors, according to Dave Neudeck, communications and marketing director for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Neudeck said the parks have canceled campground and cabin reservations through June 10. They have also closed visitor centers.
“It’s definitely going to hit our budget because the revenues generated from our overnight facilities and our merchandise sales in our visitor centers are significant,” Neudeck said.
Neudeck is optimistic about the future of the parks and said this crisis might make people more appreciative of nature.