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February 12, 2010

CW reports 2009 ticket sales, Annual Fund results and endowment performance

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reported its key operating and investment results for 2009:

  • 660,000 paid general admission tickets which translates to a “visitor gate count” of nearly 1.7 million;
  • Annual Fund support of nearly $14 million;
  • Endowment increased in value by $84 million to a market value of $695 million, reflecting strong investment performance;
  • Electronic Field Trips series reached more than 2,100 registered schools, an increase of more than 9 percent and Web “visits” exceeded 24 million, a 12 percent increase.

  • Attendance

    Colonial Williamsburg recorded 660,000 paid general admission tickets in 2009, a decline of 7 percent from 2008. The decline is attributed in part to fewer school groups, a development directly tied to decisions by schools and parents faced with financial pressures, and in part to fewer walk-up or leisure visitors with less discretionary income for travel.

    “The economic environment in 2009 was extremely challenging, but there is reason to be optimistic as we look ahead,” said Colin Campbell, president and chief executive officer of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Even though the Historic Triangle clearly felt the impact of the recession, our ticket sales kept pace with many historic sites nationally and were substantially stronger than some.”

    The “visitor gate count” for 2009 was nearly 1.7 million. The gate count formula, which compares total visitation to the open setting of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area with attendance at gated or turnstile sites, values the length of stay associated with a particular ticket. Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of one-day, two-day, longer stay and annual passes.

    “Our ticket mix was encouraging,” said Campbell. “About three-quarters of the tickets sold in 2009 were for a multi-day experience. This is a significant increase over the previous year. We know from analysis and guest surveys that the longer the visit, the more satisfying the experience is likely to be. This shift to longer visits is very positive news.”

    Tickets for evening programs and carriage rides in 2009 totaled 244,000, compared with 301,000 tickets the prior year.

    The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg recorded visitation of 208,000 in 2009 or 4 percent off the prior year figure of 218,000.

    Ridership on Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area buses was just over 1.7 million compared with 2.1 million in 2008. In addition, Colonial Williamsburg’s buses provided shuttle service to nearly 83,000 passengers to the other Historic Triangle sites of Jamestown and Yorktown compared with 97,500 passengers in 2008.

    Fund Raising

    In 2009, the Colonial Williamsburg Fund received nearly $14 million, 4.5 percent less than the prior year. The number of donors for 2009 was more than 108,000 households including nearly 18,000 families making a gift to the Foundation for the first time. Supporters from all 50 states made contributions, with Virginia households making up 16 percent of the donor base. The Foundation is especially grateful for the more than 2,800 families in the Williamsburg area who contributed to Colonial Williamsburg last year.


    The market value of Colonial Williamsburg’s endowment was $695 million as of Dec. 31, 2009, an increase of $84 million since Dec. 31, 2008, reflecting improvements in financial markets in the last 10 months of the year and continued outstanding performance by Investure, the Charlottesville firm which manages the endowment for the Foundation. During the year the Foundation’s endowment benefitted from a diversified investment approach and from strong returns produced by its investment managers. For the year the endowment’s total return was 20 percent. As of June 30, 2009, the typical year-end for colleges, universities and other endowed institutions, Colonial Williamsburg’s endowment performance ranked in the top 3 percent of more than 400 endowments.

    Interactive Outreach

    Colonial Williamsburg is a national leader in developing educational resources for American history and civics education through the Internet, interactive television and new technologies. The award-winning series of Electronic Field Trips was seen by an estimated audience of six million viewers in all 50 states and abroad in Canada, Greece and Hong Kong. In 2009, the series reached students and teachers in more than 2,100 registered schools, an increase of more than 9 percent and the highest number yet achieved. Colonial Williamsburg’s combined Web sites recorded 24.3 million “visits” in 2009, a 12 percent increase over 2008. The Foundation’s main blogging site,, recorded 541,000 visits, an 84 percent increase over 2008. The Foundation produced 52 podcasts and 11 vodcasts with approximately 115,000 monthly downloads on topics ranging from behind the scenes in Historic Trades to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

    2010 Outlook

    “Over the past eighteen months, we engaged in a comprehensive initiative to reduce the organization’s expense base, in an effort to adjust to challenging external business conditions,” said Campbell. “This effort has prepared us to take full advantage of an economic recovery. In addition to assuring quality and strengthening the content and appeal of all of our offerings, our just-launched marketing campaign will play an important role this year as we target our message on television, radio and in newspapers from Connecticut to North Carolina and through increased online presence and active social media.”

    In January, Colonial Williamsburg launched a new national marketing campaign titled Be Part of the Story. The campaign is one component of a larger effort to present the quality, richness and vibrancy of Colonial Williamsburg. Advertising is designed to inspire national audiences to discover the breadth of Colonial Williamsburg’s offerings by emphasizing that a visit to Williamsburg entails learning and multiple appeals through music, gardens, dining, art and antiques, the finest traditions of hospitality and recreation, and, of central importance, the story of the founding of a new nation.

    Colonial Williamsburg offers multiple opportunities for guests to “be part of the story” in 2010. The fifth season of Revolutionary City features new scenes, including “So Far From Scioto,” portraying the American Indian presence in Williamsburg in the persons of three young Shawnee chieftains who find themselves caught in the middle of the conflict between American patriots and British royal authority.

    The first full year of interpretive programs at R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse, the newest exhibition site in the Historic Area, will feature Virginians’ protest of the Stamp Act. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg present four new exhibitions in 2010 including “Steve Harley: An Original Life”; “Material Witnesses: Quilts and Their Makers”; “Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet”; and “R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse,” exploring the evidence used and the process undertaken to re-create the structure in light of its complex history. Also this year Colonial Williamsburg will offer behind-the-scene tours of the Costume Design Center, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2009. Colonial Williamsburg’s hotels will continue to offer the finest experiences in dining, recreation and entertainment including an expanded partnership with the Virginia Arts Festival bringing celebrated musical artists to the Williamsburg community

    The Foundation will continue to be a force in the teaching of history through expanded teacher training programs; electronic field trips; and the “Idea of America” – a groundbreaking, interactive, fully digital, Web-based curriculum for high school. Students learn lessons from history and the principles of American citizenship by exploring 65 individual case studies of the nation’s most important historical events, debating issues that changed America, listening to the perspectives of contemporary historians and accessing primary source documents of enduring significance.

    Established in 1926, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Tom Shrout
    (757) 220-7265