Mahone’s Tavern transformation into a museum is an effort to expand Southampton County’s tourism industry. Tourism is the second largest industry in Virginia and is the most widely misunderstood story about the economics of historic preservation. Virginia tourism revenue topped $20 billion in 2011. Hampton Roads is one of the top five regions impacted by tourism spending. As an example, the City of Virginia Beach generated visitor expenditures of $1.2 billion, while Isle of Wight County produced $35.55 million in tourist dollars. Tourism related revenue also provided a total of $1.32 billion in state and local taxes. The City of Newport News recognizes that the $131 million tourism dollars generated by visitors drawn to the historic sites and museums found in that community. Newport News’ sixteen city-operated museums and historic sites along with four other privately operated museums attract more than 400,000-attendees per-year.
In Virginia there are 275 historic attractions which generate over 6.5 million visitors annually. This is in addition to the nearly 22 million annual visitors to National Park Service areas. Included in these numbers are visitors to Virginia’s Civil War battlefields—867,600 at Manassas; 473,100 at Richmond; 311,900 at Appomattox Court House; and thousands more elsewhere. In fact, a quarter of all Virginia visitors stop at Civil War sites and Civil War tourist are among the highest daily spenders of all visitors, infusing over $100 per day into the local economy. The impact on Southampton County’s economy will be substantial.
Heritage tourism is a constantly growing industry which provides tax revenues and other economic benefits for a community. The multi-faceted experience awaiting travelers and students alike at Mahone’s Tavern makes this project a compelling investment.