Sounds of Ella Fitzgerald filled the halls of the Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center Wednesday afternoon as Newport News celebrated National Travel & Tourism Week.
The Newport News Tourism Development Office held a luncheon to honor the performing arts venues, restaurants, museums and people that help bring in revenue into the city. Mayor McKinley Price and other city officials also attended.
Price provided a short keynote to address the importance of tourism and distribute a $500 scholarship.
The Newport News tourism office holds the annual luncheon celebrating different aspects of the department. This year, the office celebrated the city's performing arts centers after focusing on the city's parks in 2016. Price cited Downing Gross, Ferguson Center and the Peninsula Community Theatre in Hilton Village in his speech.
"From a tourism standpoint, the performing arts are an economic driver that creates jobs and generates tax revenue," Price said. "It's economic impact is unique because it induces large amounts of event related spending by those in attendance."
Price spoke about the economic benefit the city gets from residents attending shows. He said local restaurants get a boost from visitors eating dinner before a show.
The city's tourism generates more than $284 million in revenue each year and supports more than 2,900 jobs, according to the tourism office. The city sees an added benefit from visitors coming from other communities, said tourism office spokesperson Becky Cutchins.
"We're not having to use the citizens' tax-paying money to educate them or to pick up their trash. They've visited and spent money and gone home," she said. "It's important for people to realize that."
The tourism office also helps educating those within the Newport News hospitality industry, offering they them tours of the city's attractions.
Celebrations continue next week with the tourism office holding Hospitality Day, where front-line employees at Newport News attractions, hotels and restaurants will compete in friendly competitions.