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February 3, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg Reports 2011 Results

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reported a strong year-end finish for 2011, in a challenging year during which consumers were anxious about the state of the economy and travel. In particular, results were negatively impacted from July through October by a substantial decline in consumer confidence during that period coupled with extreme weather conditions.

“We were encouraged during the holiday season by strong ticket sales, occupancy in our hotels, attendance at evening programs, and retail and dining revenue which all outpaced 2010,” said Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “At the start of 2011, there was reason for cautious optimism, but as the year unfolded, the realities of the world around us—the uncertain economy and political gridlock in Washington, as well as both an earthquake and hurricane—turned out to be unusually challenging,” said Campbell.

“These developments all had an impact on consumers and in particular their discretionary vacation and travel plans, most notably in the summer and early fall. Colonial Williamsburg’s hotel room nights and room revenues nonetheless showed modest increases, due in part to encouraging growth in our conference segment,” added Campbell.


Colonial Williamsburg recorded 670,500 paid general admission tickets in 2011 compared with 686,000 in 2010. The “visitor gate count” for 2011 was 1.7 million, basically unchanged from 2010. The gate count formula, which compares total visitation to Colonial Williamsburg’s open setting with attendance at gated or turnstile sites, is based on the length of stay associated with a particular ticket. Colonial Williamsburg offers one-day, two-day and annual passes, as well as a variety of special experience tickets. Tickets for evening programs and carriage rides in 2011 totaled 212,000 compared with 218,000 in 2010.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg presented five new exhibitions during the year and continue to be among the most visited in Virginia with attendance of 211,500 or 1 percent higher than the prior year.

In 2011 Colonial Williamsburg’s remodeled Regional Visitor Center welcomed more than 875,000 guests which includes new and repeat visitors. A newly installed custom-built, interactive kiosk enabled guests to search for attractions, lodging, restaurants, shopping and recreation throughout the Historic Triangle.

Ridership on Colonial Williamsburg’s buses was nearly 1.6 million, compared with last year’s 1.7 million. The buses also provided shuttle service for 123,000 passengers to the other Historic Triangle sites of Busch Gardens, Jamestown and Yorktown, compared with 127,000 in 2010.


Despite the nation’s challenging economic and political environment, almost 109,000 donors from all 50 states made gifts totaling $14.5 million to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, compared with $14.3 million in 2010. Virginians accounted for 16 percent of the Foundation’s donors. “We saw steady increases in both total donors and dollars to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund and were especially pleased to welcome almost 19,000 new donors, an increase of more than 8 percent over 2010,” said Campbell “We also are grateful for a 25 percent increase in total gift commitments in 2011, a jump from $32 million to $40 million.”


The market value of Colonial Williamsburg’s endowment was $707 million as of Dec. 31, 2011, a decrease of $47 million from the 2010 year-end value, after $53 million of planned withdrawals during the year to support operations and routine capital expenditures. The endowment investment return was flat for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2011. This compares favorably with the global equity markets, which were quite volatile during 2011 and produced a negative investment return of 6.9 percent according to a representative index.

Educational Outreach

In 2011, Colonial Williamsburg continued to reach out across the country with media and teacher development programs to engage new audiences. More than 1,500 teachers attended workshops on-site, off-site and online. The Emmy Award-winning Electronic Field Trip series broadcast to an audience of six million viewers in 49 states and Canada. For “Constitution Day” Colonial Williamsburg provided complimentary registration to 5,700 schools and families for “A More Perfect Union,” an electronic field trip about the ratification of the Constitution.

The Foundation's combined websites recorded 8.5 million visits, a 12 percent increase over the prior year. There were more than four million downloads of Colonial Williamsburg’s podcasts and vodcasts. Colonial Williamsburg “Connect,” a new online American history, citizenship and democracy program for the general public, launched last year and enables online visitors to explore and discuss American history and 21st- century responsibilities as citizens via webcast presentations and discussion forums.

Social Engagement

Colonial Williamsburg’s social engagement with its guests continued to grow in 2011 as evidenced by:

  • Nearly 3,800 Twitter followers (an increase of more than 2,300).
  • More than 44,000 Facebook fans, an 87 percent increase.
  • Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s “flash mob” performance in the Historic Area generated nearly 170,000 views on YouTube and produced significant earned media around the country.

    Guest Interaction and Programming

    In 2011, Colonial Williamsburg introduced an alternate reality game which enabled families to engage with each other, history and the Historic Area in a new and different way. “RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros” challenged participants to save the Revolution by solving a mystery and averting a crisis that could change the course of the war. The experience engaged participants online even before arriving in Williamsburg and was followed by interaction with costumed interpreters in the Historic Area and clues communicated via personal mobile technology. More than 10,000 guests of all ages played the game.

    “In light of its success, the program, ‘RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros,’ returns this spring and we will introduce a new episode in time for summer,” said Campbell. “Appealing to future generations is a priority for Colonial Williamsburg and this engaging history-based experience is helping to meet that objective.”

    Campbell added, “We enlivened the guest experience through such additional opportunities as the new ‘Fun Zone’ at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, ‘Live after Five’ programming in the Historic Area, ‘Salute to the Nation’ on summer Friday nights featuring Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums and fireworks, expanded ‘in the moment’ offerings at several sites and creative museum exhibitions.”

    Archaeological discoveries at the James Anderson Blacksmith and Public Armoury site confirmed the location of Anderson’s tinsmithing operation at the complex. Those discoveries inspired Forrest Mars Jr. to provide support for reconstruction and endowment of the Revolutionary War-era tinsmith shop, adding to his underwriting of R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse and the Armoury. The first components of the kitchen and the blacksmith shop will open in the spring of 2012, providing opportunities for exciting new programming linking the Armoury, the Magazine and the Revolutionary City program. When complete, Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury will tell the story of the complexity and urgency of mounting a war effort against the world’s most powerful 18th-century empire.

    In 2011 the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg presented exhibitions featuring maps and prints of early America, 240 years of fashion and accessories from 1600 to 1840, the furniture of John Shearer 1790-1820, art in clay masterworks of North Carolina earthenware and clues revealing the artist of “The Old Plantation,” an iconic 18th-century watercolor depicting slave life. In 2012, new exhibitions will include a display of the Foundation’s original 18th-century fire engine; an exhibition of tall case clocks; quilts from Baltimore and surrounding areas; American folk art portraits; “tramp art” or notched carved wooden objects; and historical keyboard instruments.

    Old traditions and new experiences ushered in a new era for Colonial Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination in December with expanded hours, more conveniently located Market Stands offering food, refreshments and Grand Illumination Kits, and a new Grand Illumination mobile site to help guests plan their visit and share their experience in real time on Facebook and Twitter. The public participated in the lighting ceremony as thousands of guests activated glow sticks simultaneously to illuminate the town prior to the annual fireworks display. Employees volunteered to serve as Colonial Williamsburg Ambassadors, wearing special badges and stationed at key locations to provide information and help guide and direct guests.

    Hospitality Recognition and Anniversaries

    Colonial Williamsburg’s hospitality offerings received national recognition for outstanding lodging and culinary expertise as well as legendary service. Three Colonial Williamsburg hotel properties were recognized by Condé Nast Traveler magazine on its 2011 “Best of the World” list. The Colonial Houses-Historic Lodging ranked first in the category of the top 50 small hotels in the United States, while readers selected the Williamsburg Inn and Williamsburg Lodge among the top resorts in the mainland U.S. Condé Nast Traveler also recognized Colonial Williamsburg’s Colonial Houses-Historic Lodging on its 2012 “Gold List” of the world’s best places to stay; the Colonial Houses received the third highest score of all hotels in the United States. Forbes Travel Guide named the Inn a four-star hotel, one of only three in Virginia and second only to two hotels that received a five-star rating. Most recently, U.S. News & World Report included the Williamsburg Inn on its list of Best Hotels in the USA for 2012.

    The Williamsburg Inn celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2012. A yearlong commemoration of this milestone begins in April with an anniversary dinner in the Regency Room celebrating the legacy of hospitality with iconic dishes from the past 75 years and entertainment highlights from the Inn’s history. Other commemorative events include an April garden party at Bassett Hall, a tastemaker culinary celebration with New York restaurateur Danny Meyer at the Inn in September and a special Grand Illumination event with exclusive dining at the Inn and a grand 75th anniversary fireworks display over the Inn Terrace in addition to the fireworks over the Historic Area. As 2013 begins, Colonial Williamsburg will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Robert Trent Jones-designed Golden Horseshoe Gold Course, one of this renowned golf architect’s leading works.

    Institutional Partnerships

    Colonial Williamsburg’s collaboration with Preservation Virginia at Historic Jamestowne continued to forge closer links between the two sites, support world-class archaeology conducted at Jamestowne and provide opportunities for new, integrated programs. Guests witnessed the discovery of significant archaeological sites and experienced historical events through dramatic presentations telling the stories of Jamestowne’s struggles to survive.

    Another partnership, with the Chautauqua Institution and Smithsonian, resulted in a highly successful symposium, “Storm on the Horizon: Slavery, Disunion and the Roots of the Civil War,” last February in Williamsburg. In August at Chautauqua, the Foundation presented a weeklong series on the same subject in partnership with the Chautauqua Institution and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.

    Partnerships with the Virginia Arts Festival, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Williamsburg Symphonia and An Occasion for the Arts expanded arts opportunities for guests and residents alike. Colonial Williamsburg and the Virginia Symphony have expanded their partnership this year to support new cultural events in the community. In partnership with the Virginia Arts Festival, Colonial Williamsburg will present a weekend of jazz March 3. Headlined by jazz vocalist Jane Monheit, the weekend includes the Jae Sinnett Trio and jazz performer Eddie Edwards. In May, the Virginia Arts Festival holds Festival Williamsburg over Memorial Day weekend with the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra and a Broadway Spotlight with Jane Krakowski and Rob Fisher in the Virginia Room of the Williamsburg Lodge. Colonial Williamsburg’s partnership with the Williamsburg Symphonia includes masterworks concerts in January, February and April at the Kimball Theatre in Merchants Square and a Sinatra Under the Stars concert at the Williamsburg Lodge in February.

    Civil War Programming

    2012 marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area will be the site of a Civil War encampment May 5-6 to commemorate the Battle of Williamsburg. Additionally, the Foundation will offer Civil War walking tours throughout the year during which guests encounter people from the period and learn about Williamsburg during the war years and the linkages between the colonial and Civil War eras.

    Run for the Dream

    In May 2011, more than 4,500 runners participated in the inaugural Run for the Dream in Williamsburg to benefit Achievable Dream and Wounded Warriors. This event returns, bigger and better, May 19-20, 2012. On Saturday night, May 19, the conclusion of Armed Forces Day, the unique spirit of America and 250 years of history will be celebrated with a special Salute to a Nation program hosted by actor and National Memorial Day Concert host Joe Mantegna, and concludes with a fireworks display on Palace Green. A military tattoo of fifes and drums from around the country will lead attendees in a torch-lit parade to the Capitol following the program.

    “There is much to look forward to in 2012 as Colonial Williamsburg moves ahead with exciting new programs, celebrations of milestones, opportunities for engagement and important partnerships to enhance and extend the guest experience,” said Campbell. “There truly is something for everyone and we encourage people near and far to ‘Be Part of the Story’.”

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

    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 website at

    Media Contact:
    Tom Shrout
    (757) 220-7265

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