- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 5, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Tourism revenue in Virginia topped more than $20 billion in 2011, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

Tourism employment increased nearly 2 percent last year and generated $1.32 billion in state and local taxes, according to figures released Wednesday by the governor’s office. The annual economic data from the U.S. Travel Association are based on domestic visitor spending on trips taken 50 miles or more from home.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said the tourism numbers underscore the importance of investing in tourism.

“Virginia’s tourism industry is bringing in more than $20 billion in revenue and providing more than 207,000 jobs for Virginians across the state. I’ve made tourism a key part of my administration’s economic development initiatives and it’s encouraging to see the positive return on investment,” Mr. McDonnell said in a news release.

“The support that we’ve received from the governor’s administration and the General Assembly has been essential to keeping tourism strong - especially during challenging economic times,” said Rita McClenny, interim president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “This new economic impact data shows that the investment is paying off and that Virginia’s tourism industry is headed in the right direction.”

The National Council of State Tourism Directors gave the Virginia tourism website, www.virginia.org, its Mercury Award for Best Travel Web Site among states last week. Destinations, events, travel packages and special offers across the state are featured on the website.

Virginia’s wine industry also received recognition recently. Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Virginia one of the top 10 wine travel destinations in the world for 2012.

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