Will drama in Richmond impact Virginia tourism?

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Could the drama going on with lawmakers in Richmond impact tourism in the state?

According to tourism officials, 19 million people visited Virginia Beach in 2017.

They spend a lot of money, which drives local jobs, goes towards taxes and makes money for our region.

Beach goers enjoy the waterfront in Virginia Beach, Virginia, June 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel SLIM (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images)

Tourists travel from near and far to come here and generated a record $25 billion for the state of Virginia in 2017, according to state officials.

Dave May is the owner of OMG Everything, a place that sells smoothies, vapes, electronics, henna tattoos, virtual reality, 3-D printing and CBD oil.

May said his business is directly impacted by tourists like any others at the Oceanfront.

He and many people around the country have been watching the drama unfold with our elected officials.

Virginia has been the butt of late night jokes and has been the topic of many conversations.

But could the tourism industry feel the effects of all this controversy?

Related: Weighing possible economic impact of Virginia’s blackface, sexual assault scandals 

“The question is: How quickly does it move out of the headlines and does it move out of the headlines before summer travel season?" said Old Dominion University professor Dr. Bob McNab.

He said in the past, negative headlines have impacted other states.

“When North Carolina had a political controversy over the bathroom bill, you saw major events get canceled there and you also saw a decline in tourism and this hasn’t broached that yet, but it could be headed in that direction,” said McNab.

But when it comes to people going on vacation, he says most people just want to relax and have a good time. He said some people may decide to vacation in other places, but he believes the majority of people will continue to come to the region.

“I think the vast majority of people are coming here because they want to go to the beach, they want to go to Williamsburg, and the political noise is there but doesn’t factor as much into their decision,” said McNab.

May said he doesn’t think the drama will impact his bottom line and believes that people will continue to come to our beaches and enjoy themselves.

The travel industry is the fifth largest employer in Virginia, according to experts.

For the latest on the controversies in Virginia:

Gov. Northam’s yearbook photo controversy

Mark Herring’s blackface controversy 

Lt. Gov. Fairfax 's sexual assault allegations

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