NORFOLK, Va. - Some encouraging news about tourism in Hampton Roads as business owners work to rebound from the pandemic: Tourism officials and businesses in Norfolk are seeing growth in visitors as vaccinations continue to ramp up.
Joshua Weinstein has been the guide behind Norfolk Tour Company.
“We show off the city,” Weinstein said. “What it really does for me is reminds me why I love this area.”
2020 hit his business hard, including tours canceled because of COVID-19.
The pandemic led him to adapt to making products and virtual tours.
“I love this area,” he said. “I really can't stop talking about it, so COVID wasn't really going to stop that.”
But this year, he's seeing an uptick in walking tours.
“We have about 65 tours scheduled for this year, and we plan on doing over 100 by the end of the year,” Weinstein said.
Visitors like Tayjah Means are coming to the Mermaid City. For Means, it’s her first time traveling since the onset of the pandemic.
“It's actually very pretty,” Means said of Norfolk. “I got to get some 'me' time.”
“I think we're coming back faster than I ever possibly imagined, and it's all the leisure traveler,” Visit Norfolk President & CEO Kurt Krause told News 3.
Krause and others are seeing encouraging numbers so far in 2021.
“We're already seeing Saturday occupancies in Norfolk, in the City of Norfolk in the mid- to high-80 percentiles of occupancy,” Krause said. “I think people have had such pent-up demand that they're just looking for that opportunity to just get outside and exhale. Once they get vaccinated, their confidence levels start to soar.”
Recently, Kruase released this chart reflecting actual room nights in March for the last five years, including a forecast for March 2021 in the City of Norfolk:
“To go from 104,000 in 2019, down to 67,000 in 2020, and now we're going to finish at 100,000; 102,000 - we're almost back to 2019 levels,” Krause said. “That was the best year we've ever had.”
"We've kind of redesigned our website to be very much that informative piece of travel information, so that you know what to do, when to do it, how to do it and how to feel safe about it," Krause added.
For Weinstein, he’s optimistic.
“There are ways to have fun as groups outdoors without endangering other people or yourselves, and walking tours are one of them,” he said. “The product is still wanted. People still want to learn about Hampton Roads.”
He’s also focused on being prepared for whatever lies ahead.
“When it starts, when the deluge comes, we don't want to be left flat-footed,” Weinstein said. “We want to be ready.”