ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – Tourism is becoming a major economic driver for the Roanoke Valley.
In 2015, visitors spent more than $800 million, which is up $150 million from five years ago, according to recent numbers from the US Travel Association.
The president of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Landon Howard, said the area includes five localities, Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Salem, Botetourt and Franklin Counties.
Howard said people mainly come to the area to experience the mountains and he also credits the area’s outdoor activities and unique events.
Howard said the reason Visit Virginia Blue Ridge is able to attract more people is because the five localities have come together to increase the organization’s marketing budget, which is now nearly $2 million, triple the amount it was six years ago.
The money has allowed the group to release videos, which have helped showcase different activities in the Southwest Virginia.
“They see a value in what we’re doing as a marketing agency to bring in more visitors who spend much more money, and then as a result get much more jobs,” Howard said.
More people in the area helps local businesses see extra foot traffic.
“It’s amazing, couples seem to be going from New Hampshire, Asheville, have come through Roanoke,” said Diane Speaks, the owner of She’s International, a boutique in downtown Roanoke.