City’s tourists made big ‘07 impact

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

By all accounts, it actually is a good time to be in Suffolk.

According to recent findings by the city’s department of tourism, Suffolk visitors spent $50.9 million in 2007 and supported 542 jobs in the city. That led to $1.6 million coming straight back to the city through taxes on hotel lodging, entertainment and food sales.

“We were pleased,” said Lynette White, tourism development manager for the city. “Myself and my comrades were very pleased.”

Email newsletter signup

White said the entire annual budget for the tourism department for the 2006-2007 year was $453,000, less than one-third of the money brought back in to the city.

“It’s arguable to say it’s a rate of return of one to three,” she said. “We stretch a dollar pretty far and have a lot of creative initiatives, because we’re a small division and we’ve got a lot to do.”

White said the key to the success for Suffolk was simple: “More people staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants.”

Mayor Linda T. Johnson praised the city’s diverse opportunities for visitors to enjoy, while also looking ahead for similar successes in the future.

“Suffolk’s ‘historically hip’ spirit salutes four centuries of our rich heritage through historic homes, neighborhoods, churches, trails, festivals and events,” she said in a prepared statement. “And with assistance from a newly appointed Tourism Advisory Committee, economic benefit from the travel and tourism will continue to enhance our local economy.”

The contribution of tourism to the city’s economy was significantly higher this year than last, according to White. The 2007 figures represent an increase of 8.7 percent over the previous year’s figures.

In fact, tourism in Suffolk grew at a rate 50 percent faster than did the statewide average.

Data from the report shows that in 2007 visitors spent $18.7 billion in Virginia, which was an increase of 5.8 percent from 2006. The national average increased 4.7 percent.

Tourism also supported 210,000 Virginia jobs, which would make it the sixth largest employer in Virginia if it were considered a single industry.

The Travel Industry of America compiled the figures for the Virginia Tourism Corporation. The Virginia Tourism Corporation maintains data on tourism revenue and employment information for both the state and local levels. To see more of the results, visit for details.

While White said the numbers are encouraging, she added that the tourism staff is already looking to the future. Staff members are working on initiatives and events that will carry the city well into the next fiscal year, she said, including moving the agency’s headquarters into the former Nansemond County Courthouse.

“We’ve got a lot ahead of us,” she said.