VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It's expected to be another busy tourist season at the Oceanfront and in the city.
The city is offering an open invitation to visitors this year.
"Instead of just saying it's an open invitation or you are invited to Virginia Beach, we're inviting you here to explore and have fun and live like we do live like a local and in our great destination," said Nancy Helman, the director of Virginia Beach's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Helman says the city has been advertising in markets around the country, including to the north like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
"We know that we're a drive destination and visitors tend to drive to Virginia Beach, but we also have visitors that come to us by air travel," said Helman.
The city is aiming to market itself as a year-round destination and a place with more than just the ocean.
"It's more than that. It's about the culture of Virginia Beach and being in our destination; it's about our great restaurants and the authentic foods you can get in Virginia Beach," said Helman.
This summer, crowds are expected to be at pre-pandemic levels.
"If we think about what 2022 is going to be, it's going to be better than 2019," predicts Dr. Robert McNab, an economist at Old Dominion University.
McNab says estimates show in 2019 visitors to Virginia Beach spent about $1.5 billion and that is money that is taxed. Things slowed down in 2020 and picked back up last year, but the data for 2021 is not yet available.
"Tourists come in Hampton Roads and spend their money. That means we don't have to tax ourselves as highly to maintain the same level of public services," said McNab.
The tourism and leisure industry employs between 80,000 and 100,000 people in Hampton Roads, according to McNab, but that number is down about 10,000 compared with 2019. The decrease is a labor shortage and many businesses are still hiring.
"We should fully expect that hotels should have a record year and if all turns out well we should see near record levels of tourists in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and the rest of Hampton Roads," said McNab.