(Delmarvanow.com) -- The Eastern Shore of Virginia — home to the famous Chincoteague ponies and to beautiful beaches from Cape Charles to Assateague — was ranked Virginia’s fastest-growing tourism region last year, continuing a recent trend.
The Shore had a nearly 5 percent increase in visitor spending in 2016 when compared to the previous year, according to the Virginia Tourism Commission.
“As chairman of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, I want to congratulate our tourism partners on another banner year,” said Steve Potts, chairman of the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission Board of Directors.
“Year after year, the numbers show that our tourism industry keeps growing and is a major driver of the economy in both Accomack and Northampton counties," Potts said, adding, "We live in a beautiful area and now it is being discovered by more and more people every year.”
Virginia’s Eastern Shore has been the state’s fastest-growing tourism region for three of the last four years.
The state has 10 tourism regions.
The Shore has seen more than 50 new tourism-related businesses start since 2013, according to a press release from the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission.
Additionally, existing businesses have seen major improvements made, and two microbreweries and a waterpark are scheduled to open in the next year, according to the commission.
Tourists on the Eastern Shore last year spent nearly $273 million on travel-related purchases, the release said.
"In addition to spending directly at local businesses, travelers contribute to the local tax base by paying sales, meals and lodging tax, which flows directly into local towns and counties," it stated.
Tourism taxes on the Eastern Shore also grew at the fastest rate in the state last year.
Tourism-related taxes in 2016 brought in $7.5 million, which represents a 31 percent increase since 2010 and a 7.2 percent increase over 2015.
Additionally, the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission has seen website visits increase 963 percent from 2011 to 2016. Requests for print travel guides also increased by 665 percent and views of online travel guides increased 998 percent.
"The Virginia Eastern Shore shows sustained and record growth due to a combination of factors,” said Kerry Allison, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission.
“In 2014 we implemented a digital marketing program to increase the region’s digital footprint. We have things here that are, increasingly, in short supply in the rest of the world — pristine and wild outdoor places, a slower pace, a deep humanity — plus we’re a short drive from millions and millions of Americans on the Eastern seaboard. ”