VIRGINIA BEACH — Tourism provides a significant boost to this city’s economy, providing jobs and money for businesses and the city coffers.
So what’s in the forecast for the 2018 tourist season?
Predictions can be difficult, but early indicators are good.
According to Teresa Diaz, coordinator of Community Outreach and Relationship Development for the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, lodging reservations for the next six months are pacing almost six percent higher than the same time frame for last year, according to VBCVB forecast data submitted by several local accommodations partners.
“I think what attracts visitors is the diversity of Virginia Beach. We’re more than just a beach,” Diaz said, pointing out the rural farming areas to the south of the Oceanfront as well as the shopping and restaurants in Town Center just to the west of the main tourist hub.
Although data for the 2017 tourist season is still being compiled, 2016 saw 15.2 million visitors to the city. The estimated economic impact was a staggering $1.49 billion and 13,000 tourism-related jobs.
In 2016 hotel occupancy was at about 63 percent. But that data comes from just 30 percent of the hotels since most decline to share numbers for proprietary reasons.
In all the city has about 10,000 hotel rooms.
Diaz said the city works with reputable agencies such as Continental Research Associates, Smith Travel, and Longwoods International to gather the numbers and the data.
“We have a great local vibe,” she said. “Our return rate (for visitors) is 78 percent. People have been coming here for years.”
Virginia Beach is within a one-day drive for two-thirds of the United States population.
But international visitors also flock to Virginia Beach and the “Capital Region.”
While most come from Western European nations (39 percent), China accounts for the single biggest chunk, making up 14 percent of all international visitors. By contrast, Canadians are just over 5 percent of summer visitors to the city.
For 2016, the average summer visitor to Virginia Beach stayed nearly five full nights and spent $2,572. That includes lodging, meals, entertainment, and other activities and items.
Although gasoline prices are rising, Diaz said the last time there was an increase didn’t have a significant impact on tourists coming to the city.
The VBCVB actively recruits visitors and tourist groups, responding to RFPs (Requests for Proposals) by sending sales teams to do presentations for large groups.
Diaz said they’re also active in sports marketing, and families that come to the city for a sports competition often add days to their stay to fully enjoy what the city has to offer.
All of the businesses have a part in keeping tourism strong, from hotels to restaurants to retail.
“We all try to help each other and to work together to make it the best we can,” Diaz said.