By Alex Trihias, The Progress-Index
PETERSBURG — Visitors to the Petersburg area spent $343 million in 2014, an increase of a 4.5 percent increase from the $328 million spent in 2013, according to travel figures. Some of the increase in tourism spending was connected to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the region is the site of numerous battles.
Expenditures for tourists include meals, lodging, public and auto transportation, shopping, admissions and entertainment. Over $8.3 million in local tax revenue was collected by local governments in the region, while $14.1 million was collected by the Commonwealth as a result of tourism in the area, according to recent data from the U.S. Travel Association reported to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
“Tourism is a driving force of Virginia’s economy- it creates jobs, generates economic impact and benefits businesses and communities across the state,” said Rita McClenny, President & CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
The Petersburg Area Regional Tourism group encompasses the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg, as well as the counties of Dinwiddie, Chesterfield and Prince George.
One reason for an increase in spending is Petersburg National Battlefield. According to a report from the National Park Service, Petersburg National Battlefield brought in 205,572 visitors in 2014, resulting in $11.2 million in spending.
“I do think that 2014 was a big year for us because of the Civil War sesquicentennial,” said Martha Burton, Director of Tourism at Petersburg Area Regional Tourism.
Hollywood films and television shows are also seen as an attraction for tourists since productions like Meg Ryan’s film “Ithaca” and the AMC television show “TURN: Washington’s Spies” use areas in the Tri-Cities as backdrops.
Burton also believes that another reason for an increase in tourism is advertising.
“I think we are working very hard, and we have been since 2006, to advertise more intelligently,” Burton said.
PART had an exhibit that marketed the Petersburg area during the recent UCI Road World Championships that were held in Richmond.