VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Tourism leaders are optimistic about the upcoming season, but say staffing challenges do still remain in the hospitality industry.
Nancy Helman, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, gave a presentation to the city council on Tuesday afternoon, saying an "open invitation" ad campaign would be launching for the spring and summer in markets mostly along the east coast and Midwest. The campaign continues on a similar one from the fall and winter.
"We now think of visitors as invited guests," Helman said, adding the campaign is now targeting visits to the year-round, instead of primarily focusing on the spring and summer.
The city has had some recent successes, including hosting 25,000 runners in the Shamrock Marathon last week and Hellman says the Virginia Beach Sports Center continues to attract athletic teams to the venue. More than 60 events are scheduled this year.
John Zirkle, the president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, said he is optimistic for the spring and summer.
"Once we hit May, things will take off like a rocket," Zirkle told News 3 on Tuesday.
Zirkle is also the general manager of the DoubleTree Hotel by the Convention Center. His hotel remains understaffed.
"My hotel - right now , I've got about 30 open positions. Up and down the Oceanfront, each hotel has anywhere from 30 to even some hotels have close to 100 positions," said Zirkle.
Still, the hotels are finding a way to make it work. This year the J-1 Visa Program will resume, allowing foreign students to work at the Oceanfront this summer, which will also help the hotels fund staff.
"Everybody does everything these days, whether it's busing tables when you're a manager to helping to answer telephones to you name it. We all do whatever it takes for guests to have a good experience," he said.