Gov. Jim Justice joined more than 300 tourism-industry members to announce West Virginia’s best tourism year ever, with the industry’s economic impact exceeding $7 billion last year. That number represents a 17% increase in visitor spending compared to pre-pandemic levels, far higher than the United States’ overall 1% post-pandemic tourism recovery.
West Virginia saw more visitors last year, and those visitors spent more money than they had in previous years. 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, which promotes American tourism around the world.
West Virginia’s tourism industry has seen dramatic growth since Gov. Justice took office in 2017. Visitor spending has grown more than 30% – or more than $1 billion a year – since 2016, despite a global pandemic.
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% 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.
These record-breaking tourism numbers were presented at the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism being held at Canaan Valley Resort State Park. In remarks at the conference, Gov. Justice recognized the more than 300 industry officials on site and the important role they’ve played in growing the tourism economy.
“You’ve done an unbelievable job taking our state’s tourism industry to the next level, and I could not be more proud,” Gov. Justice said. “All we needed to do was show the world what we already knew we had in West Virginia, and now with these numbers today, it’s truly amazing to see what we have achieved. 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.”
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.
“Gov. Justice’s commitment to tourism has paid off in a huge way,” Chelsea Ruby, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Tourism, 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.”