W.Va. officials announce record $7 billion annual tourism impact

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W.Va. officials announce record $7 billion annual tourism impact
Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby and Gov. Jim Justice celebrate a record boom in tourism. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Commerce)

DAVIS, W.Va. — Officials are celebrating a record $7 billion annual tourism impact in West Virginia in 2022 — a 17 percent increase in visitor spending compared to pre-pandemic levels, far higher than the national overall 1 percent post-pandemic tourism recovery.

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Gov. Jim Justice joined more than 300 tourism-industry members to announce "West Virginia’s best tourism year ever."

“You’ve done an unbelievable job taking our state’s tourism industry to the next level, and I could not be more proud,” Justice told attendees of the state's tourism conference. “All we needed to do was show the world what we already knew we had in West Virginia."

West Virginia saw more visitors last year, and those visitors spent more money than they had in previous years.

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Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company that measures tourism spending and economic impact, found that visitors to the state had direct spending of $5.3 billion last year, an all-time high.

Tourism Economics provides impact studies for 30 destinations and is the official research provider of U.S. Travel, promoting American tourism worldwide.

"Tourism’s been one of my top priorities as governor from the very beginning of my time in office, and it’s wonderful to see our investment pay off in a major way,” Justice said.

West Virginia’s tourism industry has grown dramatically since Justice took office in 2017. Despite a global pandemic, visitor spending has grown more than 30 percent —or more than $1 billion a year—since 2016.

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Traveler spending in West Virginia contributes significantly to the state’s economy. Food and beverage spending topped $1.4 billion in 2022. Lodging spending surpassed $800 million for the first time ever, led by a 275 percent increase in short-term rental revenue since 2019.

Visitor spending generated $887 million in tax revenues last year, with $520 million going directly to our state and local governments. Tourism-generated tax dollars contributed approximately $715 per household to maintaining government services.

The tourism industry supports more than 53,000 West Virginia jobs, one out of every 16 in the state. Those jobs account for nearly $2 billion in annual income.

Chelsea Ruby, secretary of the , thanked the governor for prioritizing the tourism industry, which has remarkably influenced the state's economy.

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“Gov. Justice’s commitment to tourism has paid off in a huge way,” Ruby said.

“We’re proud of the growth we’ve been able to achieve and the impact it has on our state’s economy. But most of all, we’re thrilled that more people than ever are discovering what West Virginia has to offer.

"We have the best tourism destination in the country, and these numbers show that the rest of the world is receiving that message.”

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