Number of visitors to Virginia Beach on the rise in 2016

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The Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau has booked about 800 more hotel rooms so far this year than it did during the first half of 2015.

The bureau exceeded its sales goal of 160,000 room nights, instead booking 160,860. Last year, the bureau had 160,054 rooms booked by this time.

Virginia Beach Convention Center, 1000 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA (Courtesy of the center's Facebook)

The Virginia Beach Convention Center is seeing more out-of-town visitors this year. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Most of the rooms booked so far this year, about 68 percent, involved people attending sporting events, according to Tiffany Russell, director of public relations for the bureau.

“We haven’t hit that in a while, so the market is coming back,” Todd Bertka, vice president of convention, sales and marketing said in a phone interview.

Bertka said the recession and military budget cuts took a significant chunk of the market away from the bureau.

“We used to see a lot of military meetings. Those literally evaporated underneath us,” he said.

This year, the bureau has brought in 437 “opportunity leads,” or contacts, of convention customers who requested hotel proposals for their guests. That is 55 more than last year, Bertka said.

A convention new to Virginia Beach this year, CVC East, a gathering of veterinary medicine professions, brought about 3,500 visitors in May. Those people spent an estimated $200,000 on food and beverages, Bertka said.

For the past couple of years, the bureau has worked to beef up its portfolio outside the sports realm, seeking to attract conventions involving the medical industry, trade associations and other markets.

“We’re starting to see some really good opportunities as we go further,” Bertka said.

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Number of visitors to Virginia Beach on the rise in 2016