About 250,000 visitors to Danville stay overnight in the city per year, according to a study from Convergence Strategy Group.
The study, released Nov. 19 to measure the economic impacts of a potential casino in Danville, estimated the city hosts 252,102 overnight visitors annually. The Southern Virginia region — not including Danville — has 476,287 overnight visitors, according to the study that cites figures from the U.S. Travel Association’s Economic Impact of Domestic Travel on Virginia in 2018 and 2017.
Southern Virginia includes Martinsville, and Emporia, and Pittsylvania, Henry, Halifax, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Lunenburg and Greensville counties.
While overall visitation numbers could increase greatly if a casino were to open in Danville, there are several factors that currently attract those from other areas to the city. The study projects from about 2 million to 2.8 million gaming visitors to the city annually if a casino were to open here. About 108,000 to 181,000 would stay overnight, according to the study.
“It’s a myriad of things that drives tourism traffic outside the potential for gaming,” Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said.
Events at Virginia International Raceway and Martinsville Speedway help fill Danville’s hotel rooms, and agri-tourism in Pittsylvania County also attracts visitors, City Manager Ken Larking said.
“Danville has more hotels than the other areas,” Larking said. “They’ll [visitors] stay in Danville and drive east or west depending on where they’re going.”
The city’s Old West End, including Millionaire’s Row on Main Street, the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, and the River District are other attractions, Larking said.
Numerous events also bring those from out of town, including concerts at Carrington Pavilion, and the annual Bright Leaf Brew Fest and the yearly Danville Wine Festival at the Community Market.
There also are athletic events held by Averett University and conferences at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Tucker pointed out, in addition to the city’s foreign-based employers that bring corporate visitors from other countries.
As for Southern Virginia outside of the Danville, half of its nearly 500,000 annual overnight visitors come to see friends and relatives, 17% visit for sightseeing and entertainment, 10% take advantage of outdoor recreation, 8% are there for business and another 11% come for other pleasure or personal reasons, according to the study.
However, at least two of those percentages could be slightly different for Danville, Larking said. The city probably has higher visitation for outdoor recreation and fewer visiting friends and relatives, he said.
Danville also has the Riverwalk Trail and Anglers Park, which boasts more than 25 miles of mountain-biking and hiking trails.
“We do have some outstanding recreation in Danville,” Larking said.
The proximity of the Riverwalk Trail and Anglers to the River District also can encourage outdoor enthusiasts to stop downtown and enjoy a meal and a beer at a brewery or restaurant, said Alexis Ehrhardt, president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.
“It used to be, people would come ride and leave,” Ehrhardt pointed out. “Now they say, ‘we can go to Me’s [Burgers & Brews].’ I think they’re staying longer, which is a great sign. Everything’s right off the trail. It’s just the perfect location.”
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.