West Virginia had its best tourism year ever in 2022, with visitors to the state boosting the industry’s economic impact by more than $7 billion, Gov. Jim Justice announced.
The increase in spending translated into a 17% gain compared to pre-pandemic levels, far higher than the United States’ overall 1% post-pandemic tourism recovery, Justice said on Monday.
The numbers were presented by the governor at his annual conference on tourism held at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.
Justice pointed out the importance the tourism industry plays in keeping the state’s economy healthy. The tourism sector supports more than 53,000 jobs, or one out of every 16 jobs in the state, he said.
“You’ve done an unbelievable job taking our state’s tourism industry to the next level, and I could not be more proud,” Justice told the attendees at the conference. “All we needed to do was show the world what we already knew we had in West Virginia, and now with these numbers today, it’s truly amazing to see what we have achieved.”
The state’s tourism industry has grown more than 30% since 2016, with visitors spending over $1 billion a year in the state, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state said traveler spending also contributes significantly to the economy with food and beverage spending topping $1.4 billion in 2022. Spending on lodging passed the $800 million mark for the first time last year, led by short-term rentals, which have risen by 275% since 2019.
West Virginia received $887 million in tax revenues from visitor spending last year, with $520 million being funneled directly to the state and to local governments. Tourism-generated tax dollars contributed roughly $715 a household to maintain government services, the state said.
“Tourism’s been one of my top priorities as governor from the very beginning of my time in office and it’s wonderful to see our investment pay off in a major way,” Justice said.
West Virginia’s general obligation bonds are rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service, AA-minus by S&P Global Ratings and AA by Fitch Ratings.