NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The annual State of the Region report is shedding light on how deep the pandemic’s impact was to Hampton Roads’ economy and how those recovery efforts are working.

The report from Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy tried to answer the question, “How do we set up the region to keep growing in the future, not just next year?”

Professor of Economics Dr. Bob McNab says the first big takeaway from the report explains how one thing helped Hampton Roads economy begin to bounce back: vaccines.

“Public health and economic health are two sides of the same coin. We’ve seen this over the last two years. If infections are rising, people retract from spending,” he said.

The report also looks at other key industries in our local economy and shows some promising signs as they begin to slowly strengthen.

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“Defense spending is poised to increase in the coming year, the hotel industry had a robust year, even in the midst of the delta variant. And cargo traffic has been increasing through the port,” he said.

As vaccination rates increased, leisure travel also saw major increases from the year before, something Professor of Economics Dr. Vinod Agarwal says should be very good news for hotels.

“Hoteliers would like to forget the year 2020, and watch what I’m saying, they will remember 2021 for a long time,” he said.

Another area under the microscope: casinos.

Economists say the proposed casinos in Norfolk and Portsmouth would need to attract a large revenue stream from visitors outside Hampton Roads to impact our economy. 

Otherwise, casinos would just circulate money already here and initial data suggest the impact may not be as great as anticipated.

“10% of the revenue generated from these casinos is going to be outside, out of Hampton Roads,” said Agarwal. “So we do not believe the casinos will have a significant impact on the performance of our economy.”

Our local economy heavily depends on leisure travel, which could encourage more money being spent at the proposed casinos.

Still, economists say they’re not too optimistic right now about the impact they’ll have on the future of Hampton Roads.