March 1-7, 2002
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Monticello’s visitors boost local economy, study finds

By Robert Brickhouse

Thomas Jefferson’s importance to the cultural heritage of the Charlottesville area is so well known that the region is often called “Jefferson’s country.”

A new U.Va. study shows that Monticello, Jefferson’s famous home in Albemarle County, also wields a significant economic impact. This is partly due to the high-income level of the many history- and architecture-lovers drawn to the area’s premier tourist attraction.

The typical household income of Monticello’s approximately half-million visitors last year was $72,115, or almost twice the national median figure, according to the study by economist John L. Knapp and research assistant Catherine E. Barchers of U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. More than a quarter of Monticello’s visitors reported incomes above $100,000 and 94 percent had at least some college education.

These visitors accounted for close to 30 percent of the Charlottesville-Albemarle area’s lodging business, the researchers said. Area tourism officials hope for further strong visitor interest here with the national bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which will kick off next year at Monticello.

The study, the first detailed assessment of the dollar magnitude of Monticello’s impact, was conducted for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Nearly all of the 525,147 visitors to Monticello in 2000 were from outside the local area, coming from almost every state and many foreign countries. Of greatest importance for the local economy, 50 percent of the visitors stayed for at least one night in the area and spent an average of $101 per person.

All in all, Monticello’s presence resulted in $34 million of direct spending in the Charlottesville area in 2000, with a total economic impact of $47 million, Knapp and Barchers calculated. The impact on employment was the equivalent of 919 full-time jobs. This accounted for 1.1 percent of total employment in the Charlottesville area.

The study and summary are available online.


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