RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia tourism revenues are likely to exceed $22.4 billion in 2014, a 4.1 percent increase Gov. Terry McAuliffe credits in part to the state's rising culinary profile.
McAuliffe, who released the 2014 tourism numbers Wednesday at a news conference, said tourism supports more than 216,000 jobs, making it the fifth-largest private employer in the state.
Besides its beaches, mountains and historic attractions, Virginia's rising reputation among foodies has helped generate more tourism dollars, according to McAuliffe.
"From tide to table and farm to fork, Virginia's oysters, produce, meats and beverages have put Virginia on the map as a bona fide culinary destination," the governor said in prepared remarks.
McAuliffe credited locally sourced foods served up at restaurants, the growing craft brewing and wine industry and glowing national reports on Virginia's food scene for enhancing the state's tourism numbers.
Esquire magazine was among the state's culinary fans, naming Virginia the "Food Region of 2014" in its November issue.
Secretary of Trade and Commerce Maurice Jones said tourism is an industry "that cannot be outsourced."
"Jobs tied to our iconic cities, beautiful scenery and historic landmarks will always stay in Virginia," he said.
Tourism also generated more than $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues.
The state's travel industry supported a payroll of more than $5 billion, an increase of 3.8 percent. The largest employment increase was in the food service industry.
The Virginia Tourism Corp. receives the annual economic impact data from the U.S. Travel Association. The data are considered preliminary until additional factors are added.
Detailed economic data by locality is available at http://www.vatc.org under research.