COVINGTON -- Tourists spent an estimated $2.78 million in Newton County in 2011, according to Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall.
That equates to $164 "the average household does not have to pay in some kind of tax because of tourism dollars that are being spent here," Hall said during his quarterly report to the Covington City Council.
The vast majority of visitors came due to filming of "The Vampire Diaries" and movies such as the remake of "Footloose," here.
"I know there are inconvenience issues, but the net return and impact on tax dollars is huge," he said, adding that the film industry is comparable to industries such as SKC or C.R. Bard. "They generate income and use very little services."
In recent months, 220 jobs have been added or announced in Newton County, through new industries Amesbury, Stamptech, and Vestar, representing a $34 million capital investment.
The number of tourists visiting Newton County increased by 47 percent in 2011, according to sources at the Newton County Convention and Visitors Center.
The number of visitors increased from 13,000 in 2010 to more than 19,000 in 2011, based on data provided by Tourism Director Clara Deemer and Assistant Tourism Director Ron Carter.
"The 47 percent increase is primarily due to the increased number of visitors for 'The Vampire Diaries,'" Deemer and Carter stated in an email response they jointly prepared. "A large number of these guests are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and shopping here in Covington."
Covington has been the setting for fictional Mystic Falls, Va., since 2009, and fans have trekked here from all over the globe to see stars of the show and the filming locations.
Tourists representing 46 states and 28 countries visited Covington last year, from as far away as Australia, Iceland, Russia, New Zealand and China.