Our country is facing unprecedented impacts from the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic and Virginia’s tourism and hospitality industries have been especially hit during this time.

Travel is usually big business for the commonwealth. In 2018, visitors to Virginia spent $26 billion, which supported 235,000 work opportunities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. But with travel coming to a halt right now, a lot of money that comes into the Virginia economy is no longer certain.

At this time, the health and safety of our communities is our No. 1 priority and we encourage all visitors and Virginians alike to take precautions against the spread of the illness.

It’s been incredibly uplifting to see how members of the tourism and hospitality industries have quickly adapted to the ever-changing situation and moved to new models such as delivery and curbside pickup for restaurants, online ordering for retail businesses, and virtual tour options for attractions and historic sites.

We’ve seen our community come together to raise money for charities, assist with local food banks and create goods that people need — all while trying to navigate how to run their businesses during this challenging time.

We haven’t yet reached the end of this crisis. We don’t know when that will be, but it will come. Until then, we encourage citizens of the commonwealth to remain positive and hopeful as well as to keep dreaming of their next vacation.

Travel in Virginia is approachable and accessible with numerous historic sites, 37 state parks and two national parks, and miles of beautiful sandy beaches. Virginia also boasts wide-ranging family fun activities for all types of families to get together and make those special memories over quality vacation time.

Love can be found in every corner of the commonwealth with our LOVEworks signs that can be found all over the state. There are more than 200 LOVEworks in Virginia, each one unique depending on the destination. These signs provide the perfect photo opportunity for travelers celebrating their journeys.

The tourism industry is resilient and will bounce back from this crisis. People want to get out of their homes and travel again after being cooped up for so long. When it is safe to do so, travel will be what moves the country forward once again and it will be a vital part of Virginia’s economic recovery.

As the state begins to reopen, we encourage everyone to stay safe and healthy. Virginia will do its part to be responsible and work to create safe, healthy environments for travelers. The beauty of Virginia is waiting for travelers to rediscover favorite destinations, restaurants and attractions. We encourage travelers to go to virginia.org to start planning their vacations while they continue staying at home.

Travel in Virginia always has been about doing the things you love with the people you love most. We hope that people will rediscover why Virginia is for Lovers when they can visit again. We know that every traveler is different, and it will be at his or her own pace when he or she will feel comfortable traveling again. When travelers are ready, Virginia will be here waiting for them.

Susan Payne is chair of the board of directors of Virginia Tourism Corporation. Contact her at: susan@brgva.com

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