Tourism revenue reached $74.3 million in Martinsville-Henry County in 2018, an increase of 4.9% from 2017.
“We are delighted to say that tourism revenue, jobs supported, and taxes generated have continued to increase over the past several years for Martinsville-Henry County,” Beth Stinnett, assistant director of tourism for Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said in a news release.
“This data show the direct impact that tourism-related attractions, events and amenities have on our community and the significance of tourism.”
Figures released by the agency from data compiled by the Virginia Tourism Corporation showed that $74.3 million supported 773 jobs, better on both counts than the $70.8 million and 763 jobs in 2017. Those totals have risen steadily since 2014: $68.8 million/763 in 2016, $67.8 million/757 in 2015 and $66 million/735 in 2014.
Combined state and local taxes generated via tourism expenditures in Martinsville-Henry County totaled $4.8 million in 2018, up from $4.6 million in 2017, $4.56 million in 2016, $4.4 million in 2015 and $4.2 million in 2014, meaning roughly 17% growth for the five years.
Stinnett said the tourism-related jobs in MHC included “people such as the managers and workers in our hotels, the directors and staff members at our museums and others.”
“Martinsville – Henry County continues build on its tourism assets as a key component of our overall economic development strategy,” Sarah Hodges, director of tourism for Martinsville-Henry County, wrote in an email. “We are fortunate to have diverse venues and attractions that work together to enhance visitor experience, and we will continue to aspire for new and exciting things for people to take advantage of here in MHC.”
Stinnett mentioned amenities such as Philpott Lake, the Martinsville Speedway, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Piedmont Arts, the Bassett Historical Center, the Smith River Sports Complex and the Smith River as assets that draw visitors.
“Pair those with exciting events such as Rooster Walk at Pop’s Farm, Dino Day at the Virginia Museum of Natural History or the Martinsville Half Marathon, and you can see why Martinsville- Henry County is so appealing to a variety of visitors,” Stinnett said.
Several other local officials also cited the importance of tourism.
“Tourism brings outside dollars into our community, and it provides jobs for our residents. The positive growth in tourism is good news for our community,” Henry County Deputy Administrator Dale Wagoner wrote in an email.
He said the community has many quality-of-life amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy, citing some of the same examples as Stinnett did.
“But there are really many more opportunities that often don’t come to mind as easily,” he said.”We have many people each year visit our area for dirt bike racing, ATV riding, theater productions, musical events, sporting events, beer and wine tasting, informative educational lectures, river activities such as canoeing and kayaking, food competitions, and many others activities. Each of these opportunities contributes positively to the continued growth in tourism in our area.”
Said Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki: “The statistics indicate tourism has a substantial economic impact to our community in both employment and taxes paid, and we always need to recognize that people from outside this area are coming, visiting, staying overnight, shopping, eating, etc. Every effort should be made to present our community in the best light and to be ‘ambassadors’ for the community.”
Martinsville City Attorney and Assistant City Manager Eric Monday wrote in an email that the tourism revenue is “a significant injection of money into our local economy.”
“It’s not surprising people like to visit here. We have the NASCAR track with the heritage and character in the entire circuit, and a beautiful state scenic river with amazing trout fishing. We have a world-class Natural History Museum and miles of walking trails — about to expand significantly.
“We’re also one of the top 10 least expensive places in the entire U.S. and have been for over a decade. Most importantly, we have great people. Martinsville and Henry County is a great place to visit, and an even better place to live.”
Lisa Watkins, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that tourism is “very important to our local economy, and our tourism assets make our community a great place to live and to visit. As we would all agree, the Martinsville Speedway creates the most impact economically.”
Increased tourism revenue in Martinsville-Henry County reflected what’s happening throughout Virginia. Data released by the U.S. Travel Association showed that all regions in Virginia posted an increase in tourism in 2018.
Tourism in Virginia generated $26 billion in travel spending, supported 235,000 work opportunities for Virginia communities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
The increase is attributed largely to Virginia’s tourism promotion and development efforts, including:new hotels, restaurants, agritourism, craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries, sports, outdoor recreation, festivals and events, music venues, wedding venues, meeting and convention venues, attractions and more.
Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.