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Monticello’s Well-Educated Visitors Have A Significant Economic Impact On Charlottesville Area

 

 

February 20, 2002-- 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 University of Virginia 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 are hoping 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, which owns and operates the only American house on the United Nations World Heritage list.

Of the 525,147 visitors to Monticello in 2000, some 420,118 were classified as "general" visitors, with the remainder coming in school groups. Four-fifths of the general visitors and almost all of the school groups came to the Charlottesville area for the primary purpose of touring Jefferson’s house and its extensive plantation grounds and gardens, or taking part in its many educational programs on colonial history, slave life, and architecture.

Nearly all of the visitors 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 general visitors stayed for at least one night in the area and spent an average of $101 here per person, including children.

An important gauge of Monticello’s economic impact, Knapp and Barchers said, is that lodgings tax collections from its visitors amounted to 28 percent of the local total for the year. Meals taxes paid by Monticello visitors were about 6 percent of the local total.

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, including those at Monticello itself as well as jobs generated in local businesses. This accounted for 1.1 percent of total employment in the Charlottesville area.

Monticello also plays a key role in Virginia’s tourism economy, attracting many who also travel to other prominent sites such as Williamsburg, Mount Vernon and Civil War battlefields, the researchers pointed out.

Monticello also spends major amounts on capital improvements, stimulating additional economic activity locally. Examples include the recent construction of the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, with an 89-acre outdoor classroom and a 1.6-mile walking trail. The foundation has some $83 million in new projects planned, including a major new visitors center and administrative campus.

Ultimately, however, Monticello’s "unique aesthetic, historical, cultural and intellectual value" really can’t be quantified, Knapp and Barchers concluded.

The full study and a four-page summary are available on the Cooper Center for Public Service Web site at

http://www.virginia.edu/coopercenter/vastat/publications/monticellodocument.pdf

http://www.virginia.edu/coopercenter/vastat/publications/monticellosummary.pdf

Contact: Bob Brickhouse, (434) 924-6856

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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