RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Before the pandemic began Richmond saw a robust year for hotel occupancy. Sporting events, conferences and annual meetings on top of leisurely travel almost completely filled up hotels in the Richmond-Petersburg area on multiple occasions in 2019.
There were three days in 2019 with occupancy rates over 90% and the rest of the top ten days had rates above 87%.
“As we look to the future, we know the health of our region’s economy depends on a strong travel economy,” said Jack Berry, President and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “The travel industry supports more small businesses in our region than any other major sector. Sports tourism, as well as meetings and conventions, are both vital parts of our travel industry.”
According to Richmond Region Tourism, one Saturday night in particular had a hotel occupancy rate of 92.3%. Saturday, Sept. 21 a NASCAR race at the Richmond Speedway and a Club Champions League soccer tournament brought the large amount of overnight tourists to the region.
“The sports community’s collective efforts to host quality events at first-class venues offering exceptional experiences will continue to have a positive impact our residents and out of town visitors for years to come,” said Dennis Bickmeier, President of Richmond Raceway.
Other notable drivers of heavy tourism weekends include the Virginia Education Association Annual Meeting and Conference, Jefferson Cup soccer tournaments, Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Drill Championships , NASCAR spring race and Richmond Folk Festival.
“2019 was another record year for the region thanks to a busy slate of sports tournaments, conventions and trade shows along with a thriving leisure travel market,” said Berry. “It’s important to remember that the 2020 occupancy data will look different.”
While the Richmond region is not immune to the struggles of supporting tourism businesses during COVID-19 Berry says the industry’s recovery will rebound due to certain factors. Berry says the rebound will be accelerated thanks to its location, accessibility, wide range of outdoor activities and strong trend of friends and family visiting the area.