Holiday season brings business bump in Williamsburg

In the Greater Williamsburg area, an uptick in tourism in the weeks after Thanksgiving helps end the year on a positive note for local businesses and hotels.

The revenue provided for businesses, hotels and meal sales during the holiday season, from the last week of November until the end of December, has increased when compared to 2008, according to data collected by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance.

“It is becoming one of our busier times of the year,” said Bob Harris, senior vice president of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance.

Sam Wallace, who with his brother, Cabell, owns the Christmas Shop, R.P. Wallace and Sons General Store and the Campus Shop in Merchants Square said December is the best month for business for most of his stores.

“December is one of our busier times of the year and is for sure our busiest time at the Christmas Shop,” Wallace said.

Wallace said he began stocking inventory for this holiday season 11 months ago, in January 2017.

Sam Wallace also owns the Scotland House in Merchants Square with his wife, Michelle.

“The whole month is good for us. The weekend of Grand Illumination is huge for us,” Wallace said.

This year, the Grand Illumination, which is Colonial Williamsburg’s fireworks and decoration showcase, will be held Sunday.

Wallace said his businesses benefit from the activity around holiday-themed Merchants Square programs, such as Liberty’s Ice Pavilion and Colonial Williamsburg’s Christmas carolers.

Revenue for localities

Compared to 2008, York and James City counties and the City of Williamsburg combined have experienced growth of more than 35,000 room nights during November and December, according to data collected by the chamber last year.

These room nights brought in an additional $7 million in room sales compared to 2008, according to the chamber. Those room sales generated a 34.9 percent increase in room tax collections for the three localities from just shy of $1.1 million in 2008 to $1.4 million in 2016, according to the chamber.

A room night is a night someone stays in a hotel, bed and breakfast or timeshare.

Ron Kirkland, executive director of the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association, said the last week of November and the entire month of December is a strong time for hotel stays in the area.

Kirkland anticipates these next few weeks will be fruitful for tourism.

“I expect Grand Illumination to be a home run,” Kirkland said. “There’s going to be nice weather and the chamber is hosting its parade. It should be a really nice weekend.”

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance hosts the annual Williamsburg Christmas Parade Saturday.

Harris attributes the uptick in revenue to Busch Garden’s Christmas Town, Grand Illumination, Liberty Pavilion at Colonial Williamsburg and the new programming at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

Neal Chalkley, general manager at Harmony Hospitality, which owns 12 hotels in Virginia and North Carolina, including the Best Western Williamsburg Historic District Hotel, said the Williamsburg location at 351 York St. is already booked for the first two weekends in December.

Chalkley said the hotel is also bolstered by Christmas Town at Busch Garden.

“With Christmas Town open after Christmas, we also get a boost during the last week of the month,” Chalkley said.

Meal sales during the same period have grown by more than 42 percent for the three localities, bringing in an additional $22 million in revenue and an additional nearly $1 million in meal taxes, according to the chamber.

In 2016, meal sales totaled $76 million in James City and York counties and the city of Williamsburg, according to the chamber.

Harris said the shopping options plus tourism activities provided by Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and Busch Gardens make Williamsburg an attractive destination for tourists driving from bigger cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Raleigh.

“I think our partners realize the holiday season is a time people are interested in coming to our area,” Harris said. “I think our destination is a great draw. … and it’s a nice time of the year to take the family away.”

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

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