VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - People are looking to get away for the summer, and they're heading to Virginia Beach, which is big news for local hotels and Airbnb rentals.
"We take [the Oceanfront] for granted because it's, you know, right here. When you see these folks come in that have never seen the ocean, have never walked in the ocean, have never tasted the saltwater on their lips — that's just really, really nice to see," said John Zirkle, the President of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association and General Manager for the DoubleTree by Hilton.
Zirkle said tourism is the reason rooms throughout the Resort City are already booked for the summer.
Each year Old Dominion University's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy looks at the Hotel Industry in Virginia and Hampton Roads. The report found "newly released monthly data from STR, a global firm that provides insights into the hospitality industry, show that hotel revenues in Hampton Roads through the first four months of 2022 are 19% higher than the levels observed in the first four months of 2019. Hampton Roads’ hotel industry, except for the Miami and Tampa markets, also continues to outperform the top 25 markets in the nation in terms of growth in Hotel Revenue and Revenue per Available Room."
Prices for nearly everything are also up across the board.
"We've seen the cost of everything [go up], from the linens in the room to the housekeeper [and] those cleaning your room. Everything's increased in price," Zirkle said.
The data collected by ODU reflects that as it found "the Average Daily Rate (ADR) paid for hotel rooms through April stood at $108, a 1.3% increase compared to 2019. However, Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR), an industry standard of the health of the lodging sector, fell to $60 and was 4% lower compared to 2019."
Whether it's at hotels or restaurants, all the money shelled out by tourists goes right back to Virginia Beach and everyone who lives there.
According to Zirkle, here are some highlights of projects/events that Virginia Beach’s TIP Fund is/was responsible for over the past 30 years:
- Marine Science Museum Expansion ($31,684,000)
- Sandler Center for the Performing Arts ($46,700,000)
- Convention Center ($193,500,000)
- Construction of seawall from Rudee Inlet to 58th St and a continuous dune from 58th St to 89th St ($44,821,704)
- Public Beach Access Improvements (includes Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay) ($416,364)
- 25th St and Pacific Ave Parking Lot ($2,056,000)
- Walkway connection for Rudee Loop ($14,360,155)
- Va. Beach Amphitheater Economic Development partnership and Lake Ridge Golf Course ($17,009,269)
- Sports Center ($68,561,047)
- Parking Increase for Aquarium ($3,000,000)
- Resort Area Parking ($11,125,000)
- Beach Sand Replenishment ($14,083,001)
- 17th St Improvements Phase 1 ($26,000,000)
- Seal Exhibit ($500,000)
- Boardwalk Arts Festival – MOCA – Since 1996
- Holiday Lights – Since 1997
- Beach Street USA Entertainment
- Neptune Festival – Since 2011
- Something in the Water Festival
- Virginia Symphony
- Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon
- American Music Festival
Also tucked between the hotels and motels are other lodging options for visitors.
"Our Airbnb notifications started buzzing months ago," said Virginia Beach resident LeAnne.
LeAnne was born and raised in Virginia Beach, and said Oceanfront bookings have been a big financial boost for her family.
"I know sometimes locals are like, 'Oh, the tourists are coming in town,' but for so many people down here at the beach, it's such an opportunity. Keep in mind when you're doing Airbnb rentals, you're supporting those small family businesses," she said.
The opportunity to have out-of-town visitors is also lasting longer than three and a half months.
"We have noticed a big difference in the time frame that people are coming down," she said. "The season is lengthening, which is really cool."
This is also the first year since the pandemic started that J-1 students will be back working. The J-1 classification (exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.
"We're still going to probably be around 1,000 J-1 students that are coming in to help supplement the staff that we have and take care of the shortage of the staff," Zirkle said.