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TAZEWELL, Va. — More tourism tax revenue, 200 more tourism jobs and 20 new businesses fueled by tourism are all part of the growing industry being seen in Tazewell County and other parts of Virginia, a local director said Tuesday.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a statement Tuesday about the state’s tourism industry, which grew by $2.2 billion in state and local taxes collected and more than $24 billion spent by visitors.

“Virginia’s tourism industry is a critical component of the new Virginia economy, providing jobs for our citizens and funneling millions of dollars back into our communities,” McAuliffe said. “We have traveled across the globe to promote Virginia as a premier travel destination, showcasing our beautiful scenery, rich history, and incredible culinary offerings, in addition to our outstanding oysters, wine, craft beer, cider, and distilled spirits. I am committed to the continued growth of this important industry, and to showing the world why Virginia is for Lovers.”

Visitor spending supports 230,000 jobs in Virginia with 16,000 of them added during McAuliffe’s tenure, according to state officials. Tourism also provides $1.7 billion in state and local taxes. Last year, Virginia had more than 45 million visitors from across the United States.

In Tazewell County, state taxes collected by the county amounted to $2,237,011 in 2016, an increase of 3.3 percent over 2015, Tourism Director David Woodard said. The 2016 local tourism taxes were $713,064, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2015. Tourists visiting Tazewell County in 2016 spent $50, 862,821, which was a 1.4 percent increase more than what was recorded in 2015.

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Tazewell County has also seen more tourist-related businesses open during the past two years – not including 2017 – as well as new jobs in the service sector, Woodard said.

“Tazewell County has invested in tourism for many years now as part of its economic development plan,” Woodard said. “Over the past two years, we have seen over 200 new jobs and over 20 new tourism related businesses locate in Tazewell County. The number of visitors coming into Tazewell County to experience adventure each year has increased for the past four years. The taxes collected from tourists are revenues that help relieve the tax burden of local residents. Maintaining a relevant marketing program to attract tourists is the backbone of our tourism department.”

“Those marketing efforts include online digital marketing, encompassing social media and search engine optimization; trade shows, where we talk with potential tourists one on one; and a very robust mail out/print media program,” Woodard stated. 

The county is still seeing growth in the tourism industry, but how much will occur this year won’t be known until December. The tourism center currently has traffic counters deployed to measure motorcycle and other vehicle traffic being generated by visitors coming to the Back of the Dragon route, he said.

“That gives us a pretty good picture,” Woodard stated. “I believe the number of motorcycles is up.”

Motorcycle clubs and automobile clubs from across the United States and riders from other countries have been coming to ride the Back of the Dragon route. Bad fall and winter weather could adversely impact 2017’s figures, but so far the season is shaping up well, he said.

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Larry Davidson, president of Drag-A-Knee, Inc., and his partner Danny Addison, continues to see more riders arriving in Tazewell County.

“First of all, everybody’s is looking for that new ride,” Davidson said. Back of the Dragon provides the curves, scenery, and everything else a tourist would want in a new ride.

“One man said it was like a roller coaster ride on a motorcycle,” he stated.

Back of the Dragon is also seeing more car clubs. Car enthusiasts in groups specializing in models such as Mustangs and BMWs have visited the route, and now a club for Jeep owners is coming to Tazewell County. People from across the county as well as seven major countries have rode the Back of the Dragon.

“A lot of work has been done by us and David Woodard on tourism and development,” Davidson said. “It’s (Back of the Dragon) been an eye opener for the motorcycle community and the car club community.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com



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