RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Tourists spent billions on sports-related activities in Virginia in 2022.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation announced on Monday that sports tourism generated $2.7 billion in direct spending for the year.

According to a release, this 12 percent growth from 2021 was driven by 12.1 million sports travelers who participated in tournaments or attended other sports-related events as spectators.

Regarding the Commonwealth’s overall visitor economy, sports tourism made up nearly eight percent of the 2022 total.

VTC says such travelers spend $7.3 million every day, up one million compared to 2019, which helped to employ more than 28,000 people and raised $344 million in state and local tax revenue.

“We are thrilled to see how sports tourism helped power Virginia’s tourism recovery,” said Dan Roberts, VTC’s Vice President of Research and Strategy. “These numbers show the significant impact sports tourism has on the economic growth of communities across the Commonwealth by creating job opportunities, driving development in new infrastructure and venues, increasing tax revenue, and boosting local businesses in the area.”

The release says the industry most impacted by sports-related tourism was food and beverage, which brought in $713.8 million.

Regionally, the highest concentrations of total sports spending were in Central and Southern Virginia, including Richmond and Lynchburg.

Together, these two regions made up 32 percent of all sports spending for 2022, generating $849 million.

Northern Virginia brought in $758 million while Coastal Virginia generated $718 million.

The Western Virginia region generated $355 million and posted its highest level of year-over-year growth from 2021 at more than 25 percent.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit sports tourism hard in 2020, but VTC reports this tourism sector has played a pivotal role in the Commonwealth’s recovery with its visitor spending fully recovering in 2021 and exceeding pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

For 2022, sports spending surpassed the 2019 levels by 17 percent and visitation related to sports events increased 11 percent compared to 2019.

Additionally, VTC used $1 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to speed the recovery by supporting a Sports Marketing Incentive Program.

These funds were used for event incentives and marketing promotions that were targeted specifically at spurring economic activity and travel association with tournaments and competitions.

To see a full impact study, click here.