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Tourism generates big numbers

Published 11:18pm Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Suffolk taxpayers got a significant return on their investment into the city’s tourism department in 2012.

Figures released by the Virginia Tourism Corporation show the city collected more than $1.9 million in 2012 in local admissions, food services and lodging taxes from visitors.

Meanwhile, its budget for fiscal year 2012 was $461,495, meaning the city got roughly $4.17 from tourists for every dollar it spent on promoting tourism.

“We are certainly pleased with the consistent growth in Suffolk’s tourism industry economic impact numbers,” Theresa Earles, tourism development manager, wrote in an email. “Especially in what has now become an extremely competitive market for visitor spending, it is encouraging to see Suffolk not only holding its own but increasing in revenue generation.”

Tourists in Suffolk shelled out $65 million in calendar year 2012, a 5.4-percent increase, according to the tourism corporation. The industry supported 617 jobs with a payroll nearing $11.5 million, both numbers that improved from last year.

The local tax receipts of $1.9 million were a 4.1-percent increase over 2011.

Earles attributed the growth to a massive combined effort by the city’s hotels, restaurants and attractions, as well as her own department’s marketing and advertising.

“Some of the largest growth we see is in the meals tax collection, which I expect is largely due to the plethora of quality eateries opening throughout Suffolk complementing the city’s already solid establishments,” she wrote. “Additionally, the lodging tax increase is rather substantial and demonstrates the growing popularity and convenience of Suffolk’s’ properties for leisure, business and conference travelers.”

Earles said her department will continue to collaborate with local partners to attract more leisure travelers as well as conferences and meetings. She also expects to keep doing events such as the farmers’ market, Shake, Rattle and Roll Spring Car Show and more.

“Monitoring travel trends and visitor expectations keeps us on our toes, and we are so proud to show off everything Suffolk has to offer,” Earles wrote. “We believe in our ‘product’ so the selling part comes naturally.”

Neighboring Isle of Wight County also got some of the bounty in 2012. The county saw a 2.2-percent increase in tourism revenue. The industry supported 370 jobs there.

“The Smithfield and Isle of Wight Tourism Development Office is thrilled to see the continued uptick of economic prosperity through local tourism efforts,” said Judy Winslow, director of tourism for Smithfield and Isle of Wight County. “It’s the collective strength of all of our tourism stakeholders that has continuously sustained a thriving tourism industry throughout our area.”

Statewide, tourism generated $21.2 billion in revenue in 2012, a 4-percent increase. Every locality in the state posted an increased in tourism revenue, the Virginia Tourism Corporation noted.

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