VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - City council members voted 8-3 to ask the General Assembly to allow them to create a new body to handle the city's tourism marketing efforts.
Council members decided to add a resolution to their 2021 Legislative Agenda, allowing for the creation of the Virginia Beach Tourism Authority. The General Assembly could now take up the issue during the upcoming session, which begins next week.
The Authority would be a hybrid public-private organization. Supporters say it would allow them to hire a CEO with a big salary with big requirements for results.
"We recognize it takes away some of the city's direct control over these funds, but the trade-off is we expect much better results out of our Convention and Visitors Bureau," said City Councilman Guy Tower, who represents the Beach district.
A city department, the CVB, has been responsible for marketing the city's tourism, but a consultant reported to the city council more could be done to keep pace with other tourist destinations.
Members of the business community weighed in during a city council meeting on December 8. "We all recognize we need a stronger, more aggressive system to sell us as a destination," said Laura Habr, co-owner of Croc's 19th Street Bistro.
Others are worried the proposal leaves too many questions and wouldn't have enough oversight. "We all share the common goal of support the tourism sector of our economy. I believe that goal can be serviced without transferring the people's sovereignty and our delegated authority from the people to a non-elected body," City Councilman John Moss wrote in a letter to his colleagues.
Tower said the Authority would be audited each year and says exact details of how the Authority would work still need to be worked out. "We've got a lot to sell. We've got a great city to sell. We just need to make sure we're getting out the right message to the right people at the right time," said Tower.