By Beth Erickson, President and CEO of Visit Loudoun
October is truly one of the most spectacular months in Loudoun and it is when our tourism industry shines. As a 35-year resident, this is my favorite time of the year with festivals, pumpkin beers on tap, families picking apples at our farms, couples walking down brick sidewalks on their way to weddings, steeplechase races, hikers soaking in beautiful views and restaurants showcasing local products. It is also Virginia Wine Month—the perfect opportunity to highlight DC’s Wine Country and our award-winning wine industry that draws close to a million visitors annually.
All these tourism assets are what makes this a great place to live, but the challenge is that many of the workers in Loudoun’s tourism and hospitality sector simply can’t afford to live here, endangering the economic engine of tourism—a major contributor to our local economy.
Loudoun generates more visitor revenue than Virginia Beach and Williamsburg. Loudoun’s tourism industry put nearly 13,500 people to work in 2021, making it one of the largest industry sectors in the county. Not only does tourism contribute to the overall quality of life in Loudoun, but its value is also recognized by residents. According to a recent survey conducted by Red Sky Strategies as part of Visit Loudoun’s Strategic Planning process, 70 percent of nearly 1,200 residents surveyed support tourism.
Visitors surveyed also love Loudoun, with 82 percent saying they would likely return and 81 percent would recommend Loudoun to friends. Top visitor activities include vineyard visits and shopping followed by dining, historic sites and brewery stops—all experiences that need our critical workforce in place to provide that welcoming experience that makes people want to return.
Owners of our restaurants, tasting rooms, hotels, bed & breakfasts, attractions and shops work tirelessly to hire and retain staff. According to the survey, 53 percent of Loudoun businesses identified affordable housing for workers as a top concern for the future of tourism in Loudoun while 36 percent of residents citing affordability as a barrier to the health of Loudoun’s visitor economy.
We need tourism and hospitality workers to be able to find a home in Loudoun. We want them to be a part of our community so they can refer their favorite neighborhood restaurant to a visitor, send a friend in town to the brewery down the street and be able to greet their neighbors as customers.
I am proud to be a part of a community that is actively addressing the need for workforce housing in Loudoun. We bought our first house in Loudoun in 1988 when we were in our mid-20s. When I look at our grown children today, some of whom are in the hospitality industry, I see that opportunity is an unlikely option. Something has to change to support the fundamental need of housing for our workforce now.
Since 2014, Beth Erickson has been the President & CEO of Visit Loudoun, Loudoun County’s officially designated tourism development and destination marketing organization. Recently appointed to the US Travel Board of Directors, Beth also serves on the board of Destinations International and is the board chair for Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, Travel Association. She holds the internationally recognized Certified Destination Management Executive, a program of Destination Marketing Association International and received the George Washington University Tourism Innovation Award for Innovations in Destination Development and Management in 2017. Beth and her husband have raised three children in Waterford.
Led by the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, What is the Cost of Loudoun Housing is part of the Workforce Housing Now (workforcehousingnow.org) community service effort amplifying Loudoun’s voice for workforce housing as the missing ingredient to our community’s prosperity.