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Tourism report card: Virginia Beach and Norfolk seeing strong hotel occupancy numbers

When the coronavirus pandemic began, there was big-time anxiety over what the summer tourism season would look like. It didn't take long to find out the answer.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — COVID-19 paused spring tourism in Hampton Roads, but it didn’t last long. Summer visitor numbers are climbing week by week in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

Virginia Beach Visitors Bureau Vice President Tiffany Russell said people are making Virginia Beach and Norfolk their summer destination.

“Year to date, we are still leading the nation right now in hotel occupancy recovery,” Russell said.

Russell said on June 13, the cities reached 50 percent hotel occupancy recovery among the top 25 markets, like Miami.

"We've continued to climb,” Russell said.

Russell said they get their data from Smith Travel Research.

Virginia Beach monthly hotel occupancy:

  • April 2020: 27.8%, down 60.4% from last year
  • May 2020: 38.1%, down 47.8% from last year
  • June 2020: 64.6%, down 21.2% from last year

Russell said hotel occupancy jumped to 73 percent in July.

"Month to date, our hotel occupancy is only down 14 percent,” Russell said.

Back in May, Norfolk and Virginia Beach launched a joint savings campaign, "Together at Last."

“It’s been performing better than we could have even anticipated,” said Visit Norfolk Marketing Director Sarah Hughes.

Hughes said Norfolk’s hotel occupancy is averaging around 60 percent.

Even as coronavirus cases spike in the area, Virginia Department of Health COO Paul Brumund doesn't believe it's connected to tourists.

"I don't see a connection,” Brumund said. “Our epidemiologists are not reporting back that it is the tourist areas that we are seeing problems with. It's kind of the crowding."

Hughes said safety is the top priority.

"All of our businesses have been doing a great job with either having timed tickets at our attractions or lots of signage,” Hughes said.

Both Russell and Hughes said mask reminders are everywhere, even in ads.

"Explore, but do it safely in your mask,” Hughes said. “There is a way to still do the things we love, but in a safe regard."

They hope the momentum continues.

"We are really happy with our recovery efforts, but still have so much work to do,” Russell said.