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InRoads Research: Tourism in Hampton Roads


Here in Hampton Roads, we are surrounded by recreational opportunity. From the picturesque coastal shoreline to the nationally recognized historical landmarks, this region sets itself as an invaluable asset to the East Coast of the United States and to the State of Virginia. Year over year, Hampton Roads generates tourism on a national and international level. Each week, our region welcomes tourists who arrive anxious to embrace the bountiful natural resources, state parks, world-renowned museums, entertainment venues, sporting events, festivals, and conventions, just to name a few. As to be expected, some months are busier than others. However, it is our year-round temperate climate and an annual average of 219 sunny days that continues to allow residents and tourists alike to maximize their recreational enjoyment.

Tourism is no stranger to Hampton Roads. As such, there are numerous factors within the tourism industry that play a vital role in the economic engine that drives the region. As regional thinkers, it is important to identify and evaluate those factors and observe the trends in those variables over time. Some important functions to consider when evaluating the magnitude of the tourism industry in Hampton Roads include: Total Expenditures, Employment, Payrolls, and Local Tax Revenues.

Every year the Virginia Tourism Corporation estimates the economic impact of tourism around the state of Virginia. This data serves as a useful tool to develop an understanding of how Hampton Roads is performing compared to other regions within the state. To begin, we will look at total regional expenditures. For year 2014, total expenditures in Hampton Roads equaled approximately 4.36 billion dollars . This 4.36 billion dollar expenditure represents a 3.9% increase from 2013. As displayed by the graph below, Hampton Roads encompasses roughly 20% of total 2014 tourism expenditures within the state of Virginia.


As intuition would suggest, the annual injection of tourism expenditures allows Hampton Roads businesses the opportunity to hire more employees. The graph below displays tourism related employment derived from the Virginia Tourism Corporation for year 2014. Not surprisingly, Virginia Beach sees the largest economic impact related to employment. For year 2014, tourism related activities helped create over 12,500 jobs within the City of Virginia Beach, followed by the City Norfolk, who hosts nearly 7,000 new jobs serving the tourism industry. In years to come, it will be interesting to observe the changes in Norfolk’s numbers, especially as the Carnival Cruise line continues to be a popular attraction, serving as a Port of Embarkation for leisure cruises in our area.


Naturally coinciding with employment is payroll. Payroll is a powerful variable because the almost 42,000 regional new employees will inevitably spend their paychecks at local businesses and restaurants. This spending is not only a direct effect of tourism related employment, but will produce indirect and induced effects as well. For year 2014, as reported by the Virginia Employment Corporation, annual payrolls amounted to a staggering $860 million dollars. This is a significant number and will only increase as regional multipliers take effect.

Lastly, local tax revenues are an important variable to highlight when considering the economic impact of an industry on a regional economy. These revenues help gauge the impact of tourism on local municipal governments. Local tax revenues provide broad macroeconomic support to government services, as well provide funding to projects that may be specifically related to the tourism industry. For year 2014, Hampton Roads saw total local tax revenues reach over 151 million dollars, a 2.1% increase from year 2013. Below we can see local tax revenues related to tourism expenditures organized by locality. As we could formulate, Virginia Beach witnesses the largest injection of local tax revenues equaling approximately $52 million, followed by the City of Norfolk at $23 million.


The tourism industry proves to be a powerful contributor to our regional economy. As we have highlighted, 2014 tourism in Hampton Roads generated roughly $4.36 billion dollars and accounted for approximately 20 percent of the state total. Those expenditures helped create nearly 42,000 direct jobs — 42,000 jobs that would not exist without tourism activity. These numbers help explain why it is essential to invest in the tourism industry. When speaking at the (VA-1) Tourism Summit last year, Governor McAuliffe stated, “We’re unified by one common goal: to make Virginia a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family. Tourism plays an important role in attaining that goal, building communities, and helping drive the new Virginia economy.” As economic development professionals, this is indeed our goal; and we will continue to work with our region's rich historical, natural, and cultural resources to make tourism work for Hampton Roads.

To read the full report, as written by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, visit

All data derived from Virginia Tourism Corporation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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