Additional $1 million to be spent to lure tourists to Virginia Beach

While Virginia Beach looks to cut spending as a budget shortfall looms, its Convention & Visitors Bureau is planning where to it will write its next checks.

The City Council on Tuesday appropriated more than $1 million for the bureau’s use in marketing campaigns that range from Chicago to Beijing. The funds come from the Tourism Advertising Program Special Revenue Fund, which fills its coffers with a portion of hotel and restaurant taxes and a $1 flat lodging tax per night.

The unappropriated funds are left from last year’s CVB budget, said its director, James Ricketts. The bureau usually spends around $7 million annually luring tourists to the Beach, he said.

Those lures and the dollars spent on them are critical as the Beach faces increased competition and spending from several cities — including Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Louisville, Ky. — for visitors headed to the ocean and conventions, Ricketts said.

The funds will be divided into four pots, each to entice tourists to come here with different hooks or from different markets, Ricketts said.

  • $400,000 toward participatory sports events, national and international marketing programs, and an “aggressive public relations program” to lure tourists from American cities like Chicago and Cincinnati and foreign ones like Brussels, Belgium and Beijing.
  • $300,000 toward upgrading the CVB’s technological infrastructure to make info and promotions easier to access on mobile devices.
  • $200,000 to “dramatically expand” CVB-specific social media marketing.
  • $206,510 to complete the “This is the Life” and “Three Beaches — One Vacation” sections of visitvirginiabeach.com, and to update the CVB’s website in other ways.

Ricketts said there is a lot to do in Hampton Roads, and “we have got to market it, we have got to promote it” or tourists won’t come.

Following the appropriation, the TAP fund has a $100,000 balance, serving as an emergency fund, according to the ordinance.

Councilman John Moss voted against appropriating the funds, saying the city needs to look to the future.

The Beach is in a hiring freeze while it prepares for a $33 million shortfall in next year’s budget. Moss said he’s unsure appropriating excess dollars to tourism now is the right move when next year other programs that could be more important might lack funding.

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