Press Release


Heritage Tourism Economic Impact Study Released

May 4, 2017

–First study to assess the impact of Heritage Tourism  and Heritage Tourism sites in the Commonwealth 
–In Virginia, Heritage Tourism is a major economic driver by  generating jobs and tax revenues. 
Richmond, Va. – Heritage tourism is an important driver of Virginia’s economy. The $7.7 billion spent by heritage tourists per year, plus more than $430 million spent by heritage tourism sites for operational expenditures, ripple throughout the economy, giving an additional boost of $6.5 billion to the economy and generating $1.3 billion in taxes.    
“The Economic Impact of Heritage Tourism in Virginia,” the third in a trilogy of studies Preservation Virginia commissioned from the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, documents the impact of historic preservation-related activities on the state’s economy.  
The Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Association of Museums helped with parts of the study. It was made possible with the generous support of Nancy Voorhees and The Alan M. and Nathalie P. Voorhees Fund of the Community Foundation serving Richmond and Central Virginia. 
The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.” Heritage tourism, especially in Virginia, has become a major economic driver, generating jobs and tax revenues. “Preservation Virginia recognizes that historic preservation is a powerful economic driver in Virginia,” stated Elizabeth S. Kostelny, Preservation Virginia’s CEO.  “This study completes a series that analyzed the economic impacts of historic tax credits, the Main Street Program, and now heritage tourism.  Together, these studies reveal the dynamic nature of historic preservation and the vitality that historic places bring to our communities.” 
“Virginia is a state that is steeped in such rich history, which makes heritage tourism a critical sector of the travel industry in the Commonwealth,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation.  
“There are so many ways for travelers to experience Virginia’s expansive historical and cultural attractions, dating as far back as our nation’s very beginnings at Jamestown,” McClenny said. “From the church where Patrick Henry proclaimed ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ to museums honoring the Civil Rights movement, from presidential homes to the state Capitol that Jefferson designed himself, it’s easy to see why Virginia is for history lovers.” 
Tourists who come to Virginia buy goods and services, such as food, lodging, gasoline and gifts. On average, tourists who stay overnight spend $458 per household per trip, while day-trip tourists spend about $380. International travelers spend approximately $1,134 per person. In sum, Heritage Tourists spend almost $7.7 billion each year in Virginia.  
This is net of leakage of spending outside Virginia as goods and services suppliers make purchases from non-Virginia sources. Thus, the total impact of heritage tourism spending comes to: 

  • $6.5 billion of additional economic activity, including more than $3.3 billion in employee paychecks for all affected industries (not just tourism). 
  • More than 105,000 jobs supported by the direct and indirect impacts of heritage tourism spending in Virginia. 
  • More than $640 million in State and local taxes, and more than $700 million in Federal taxes.   

The study found that an estimated 50 million people visit Virginia annually. Of this number, 42,887,000 people visit Virginia heritage sites annually. Virginia residents make up the largest group of domestic visitors (29 percent), followed by residents of North Carolina (10 percent), Pennsylvania (8 percent) and Maryland (7 percent). 
“The Preservation Trilogy, as we have come to call this series of studies on the economic impact of historic preservation, has uncovered the deep and strong relationship among history, place making and economic development in our commonwealth”, said John Accordino, Ph.D., dean of the Wilder School, which completed these studies. 
 “Americans are strongly attached to their history, especially their national and regional history,” he said. “The continued popularity of historic sites and the rapid growth of heritage tourism bear witness to this. And Americans increasingly support the preservation of the historic built environment—not just monuments, but vernacular buildings, streets, commercial districts and neighborhoods, for their intrinsic charm and beauty and as a visible manifestation of the character and history that give our towns and cities a unique sense of place.” 
The report’s case studies focus on the attractions, businesses, organizations, and local leaders in three geographically diverse regions of the state: museums and historic sites in Alexandria and Northern Virginia, the Eastern Shore and in Southwest Virginia along the Crooked Road Music Trail.  
The case studies are the result of visits and focus group discussions with stakeholders from each region and provide snapshots of how civic, governmental and private-sector entities can collaborate and link together their resources to create vibrant heritage tourism centers. 
Cheryl Hargrove, president of HTC Partners, the consulting division of Hargrove International, Inc., said, “The anecdotal information included in the case studies is quite interesting and important – perhaps the most informative read for me. It’s very exciting to see the collaborations and creative efforts at work.” 
“Like the rest of Virginia, the Eastern Shore is steeped in history and benefits from a wealth of preserved historic sites and properties, virtually untouched as the last undeveloped stretch of land on the East Coast,” said Mills Wehner, owner of Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek in Machipongo.&nbsnbsp;
“Our wine-growing endeavors are a part of nearly four centuries of farming at historic Chatham farm. This and the Federal-period home on the property are a huge attraction for our visitors,” Wehner said. “Chatham Vineyards is a member of both the Eastern Shore Artisan’s Trail and the Virginia Oyster Trail, and this cross-layering of products and offerings certainly enriches the heritage tourism experience on the Shore.” 
The full study can be found here
ABOUT PRESERVATION VIRGINIA Preservation Virginia is a private non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889 that is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia's cultural and architectural history. This work ensures that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations.  
Preservation Virginia provides leadership, experience, influence and services to the public and special audiences by saving, managing and protecting historic places, and developing preservation policy, programs and strategies with individuals, organizations, and local, state and national partners. 
“Our vision,” says Elizabeth Kostelny, Preservation Virginia’s chief executive officer, “is that historic preservation will become an integral part of everyone's life. We work to make Virginia's communities and historic places of memory stronger, more vital and economically sustainable through preservation, education and advocacy.” 
Preservation Virginia holds the notable distinction of being the first statewide historic preservation organization in the nation, having been founded in 1889 as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Since its founding, the organization has a proud legacy of saving, preserving, promoting and serving as an advocate for Virginia’s historic places—more than 400 places in all. 
The six properties that are owned and open to the public are Bacon’s Castle, Cape Henry Lighthouse, Historic Jamestowne, Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown, Smith’s Fort Plantation and the John Marshall House. Preservation Virginia’s efforts have helped save more than 400 unique historic places across the Commonwealth, many of which are open to the public and are owned and operated by independent organizations. 
In addition to interpreting these six properties to the public, Preservation Virginia serves three major roles: working as a creative catalyst, serving as a respected resource and protecting Virginia’s history as an experienced advocate. This includes serving as a liaison between lawmakers and the preservation community, advocating for state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, raising awareness of historic resources through a variety of programs and providing resources to the community that include classroom and other educational guidance.  
Three studies by the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs commissioned by Preservation Virginia show the economic impact of historic preservation in the Commonwealth. The first found that the impact of the historic rehabilitation tax credit program has added $3.9 billion to Virginia’s economy, along with $133 million in state and local tax revenues and 31,000+ jobs supported. Next, the Virginia Main Street Program, championed by Preservation Virginia since 1985, features 25 active communities across the state, resulting in 16,000 jobs and $2 billion in economic impact. Third, heritage tourism supports more than 105,000 jobs and generates $640 million in state and local taxes, and more than $700 million in federal taxes.  
For more information, visit or on social media: Facebook (Preservation Virginia), Twitter (@preservationVA) and Instagram (PreservationVA). 

Press Contact

Media Contact: Will Glasco (804) 648-1889 ext. 311 or