Numbers Climb: Charlotte County tourism spending grows

Published 2:35 am Friday, November 3, 2023

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The good news is that Charlotte County saw tourism revenue increase in 2022. The bad news is that Charlotte still trails neighboring Prince Edward in that area. 

Prince Edward and Charlotte counties’ revenue rose in 2022 over 2021, a report from the Virginia Tourism Corporation said, while Lunenburg County’s remained flat over the two years.

The annual VTC economic impact of tourism data shows Prince Edward County led its neighbors with a 6.6% rise in tourism spending, while Charlotte County saw a 4.5% increase. Lunenburg County’s showed no growth in the report.

To calculate spending, the state looked at what tourists spent on lodging, food and beverage, retail and transport.

VTC said Prince Edward had $56.4 million in tourist revenue in 2022, while Charlotte County garnered $7.4 million. Lunenburg generated $5.3 million from its tourism, according to the report.

Virginia’s statewide totals rose sharply for 2022 compared to the previous year, with spending hitting $30.3 billion last year, a 20.3% from 2021. Lodging topped tourism revenue in Charlotte County at $2.3 million in 2022, similar to Lunenburg generating $2.2 million in the category. 

The VTC report showed Charlotte with food and beverage was next at $1.1 million, followed by transport at $1 million and retail at $500,000.

Lunenburg’s numbers had transport second at $1.5 million, followed by food and beverage at $1 million and retail at $400,000 during 2022.

What drove Charlotte County tourism growth? 

Charlotte County Assistant County Administrator Monica Elder said local events and attractions, businesses, infrastructure, visitors’ experiences in the community and marketing all play a role in visitor spending.  

“Charlotte County’s 4.5% increase is likely attributable to a combination of these factors rather than a specific action,” she said.

Both counties are part of the regional tourism organization, Virginia’s Crossroads.

While Elder said Charlotte County did not have a specific strategy going into 2022 to bring more visitors there, she said they worked with Virginia’s Crossroads to market attractions and events throughout the South-Central Virginia region.

“We’ve continued to actively participate in their marketing campaigns and also use the county’s website and social media page to market local events and attractions,” Elder said Monday.

Lunenburg still waiting

Lunenburg County Administrator Tracy Gee said she and Taylor Newton, the county’s director of planning and economic development, have not yet had the opportunity to delve into the numbers in the VTC report on tourism’s economic impact on communities.

Newton as serves as her county’s representative the Virginia’s Crossroads board and Gee said they have not formally discussed the data from the VTC report yet. 

In the meantime, Newton is completing due diligence on the information in the report.  

Gee added that she has “not taken a deep dive into the data for our area versus surrounding localities and those of similar size.” So she was not able to respond to why tourism revenue in Lunenburg did not increase in 2022.

Gee also noted the county’s VTC representative recently took another job and the position has not been filled, leaving them without a person in the department that release the numbers.

In Charlotte County, Elder said they expect the county to post an increase in lodging associated with visitors who are working temporarily there and increases in spending on food and beverage when the report for the current year is issued.

“In 2023 the county has focused more on community events while continuing to market locally and participate in regional marketing initiatives,” Elder said.

Breaking down the biggest attractions 

Charlotte’s biggest attraction for visitors is Red Hill, the Patrick Henry National Memorial. 

She noted it draws visitors for the educational and cultural events held throughout the year, along with the annual July 4 celebration.

“As we approach the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, we anticipate a significant increase in Red Hill’s visitation as well,” Elder said. The county expects to work with Patrick Henry’s Red Hill on the Virginia 250 celebration.

Additional local attractions that she said draws visitors to the county include Charlotte State Forest, Staunton River Battlefield State Park, The Wilson-Kautz Civil War Trail, The Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail, outdoor recreational opportunities and other historic sites.

In the year ahead, Elder said the county is looking at enhancements to its website related to events and local business.

“At the regional level, Virginia’s Crossroads is working on plans to increase their digital presence and on-line marketing efforts,” she said.

Gee said they expect the VTC numbers will not reflect some of the progress the county has made.

“We have events in Lunenburg where the data for out-of-county visitors is not likely to be captured,” she explained. “Statistics reflect measurable data, and some of our events are not included in state reports, such as the truck and tractor pull fundraiser, event venue attendance and town festivals.”

Gee said they plan to dig deeper into the data for future discussions on what it means to Lunenburg County.

Elder noted that Charlotte County cannot be expected to show increases similar to the state with its 20.3% rise in tourism spending in 2022.

Based on the number of events, attractions, and businesses in the county, she said, “we are not going to experience the level of increase seen in localities that are major tourist destinations.”