According to U.S. Travel Association, international inbound travelers are estimated to have made 75.6 million visits to the United States in 2016. The CVB has positioned the city to capture its share of those travelers by marketing Virginia Beach in four countries overseas. In addition to neighboring Canada, the CVB’s International Tourism division actively pursues groups and individuals from China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
The International Tourism team recently showcased our coastal city to two groups of Chinese travel writers and tour operators. During guided familiarization tours around the city, the groups explored many of our districts and attractions and participated in several of our more popular excursions. Upon returning to China, the writers will craft and publish articles about their first-hand Virginia Beach experiences, and the tour operators will develop itineraries for the benefit of potential visitors to Virginia Beach.
Three more groups of travel writers and tour operators from France, the United Kingdom and Canada are scheduled to arrive and tour Virginia Beach in early October.
Photo caption: CVB guests ready to enjoy an iFly adventure
The MarComm team recently went to Ocean City for a product gap analysis. Here are some of the findings and some photos from the trip!
(Click link for photos)
OCEAN CITY RESEARCH TRIP
- Cheesy, big-box retailers/ chain restaurants; Middle- America
- Nasty water, rickety boardwalk; Long Island-ish dirty beach; Crowded/ cramped; Bike Week= not always “family friendly”; “Fall back vacation destination”
- Culture? Vibe?! No real sense of place; No signature cuisine or cultural scene
- Carnival/ tacky; Pretzel stands, Putt-putt golf
- Jersey Shore-ish
- Not a year-round destination
- Culinary & Craft Beer
- Local craft beer scene— 4 Legitimate local craft breweries, including a trendy looking brewery in Berlin “historic district”
- Abundance of outdoor seating at restaurants and bars (including rooftop bars, elevated dining patios, etc.)
- Activities/ Entertainment/ Nightlife/ Programming
- Casinos: Ocean Downs Casino
- Biker-friendly: bike week happening at OC this weekend
- OC beach dance parties on Tuesdays summer peak summer season
- 100 nights of lights- during summer season boardwalk lights with free ice cream
- Motorized scooter rentals
- Events/ Programming appears to end after Labor Day, essentially just a summer destination
- For Virginia Beach, strong fall programming will be a way to distinguish our destination from OC as a true year-round destination; i.e. extend fireworks, movies on the beach in Oct/ Nov. etc.
- At “ocean city expressway” entrance/ exit there’s a small park with boat launch
- Tennis center right at entrance/ arrival into OC oceanfront
- Chartered fishing is easily accessible and abundant; Several boat tours departed from Marina area
- Not very bike-friendly (no visible bicycle lanes, roadways are traffic-heavy)
- Universities/ colleges
- No major colleges/ universities located within OC boundaries to provide young energy/ “creative capital”
- Outlet stores near Ocean City
- 16 Sunstation stores in OC; Boardwalk area is lined with repetitive touristy type shops (t-shirts, beach towels, souvenirs, etc.)
- Boutiques—some boutique shops, but primarily located off of boardwalk area, closer to the bay side of OC
- Convention Center/ M&C
- Convention Center location–Waterfront/ Bayfront location, two streets back from the oceanfront
- Directly adjoined to the performing arts center
- No headquarter hotel, but within a block or two of larger hotels; Walkable to lodging and dining
- Visitor Information Center
- Combined with the regional Chamber of Commerce office, including a small onsite “conference”/ meeting space; very traditional setup
- Travel/ Commute:
- Ease of travel; Hassle-free trip/ drive (heading north via Eastern Shore/ CBBT)…until you hit road work and come to a standstill on back country roads.
- Roadway—currently widening main highway into Ocean City
- DC: 112 miles (3 Hours)
- Baltimore: 103 miles (3 Hours)
- Annapolis: 120 miles(2.5 Hours)
- Philadelphia: 152 miles (approx. 3 Hours)
- Sense of Arrival/ Placemaking:
- Feels like OBX (road into ocean city) -charming; lush, tree-lined streets; lots of quaint beach cottages intermixed with shops and hotels “the north end and Atlantic Ave.
- Inlet district= Downtown Ocean City; historic “Main Street” community with original looking beach cottages, fair/ carnival park, etc.; District area includes a dedicated bike/ bus lane at oceanfront
- Tree-lined streets, well maintained building facades
- For VB, consider increasing tree coverage along streets, wrap them in lights; Perhaps string bistro lights across Atlantic ave. (i.e. Larimer street in Denver)
- Beach/ Oceanfront
- Boardwalk area: less hotels, more of an entertainment district; open air permanent stage set up; lots of access to public restrooms/ easy to find….. experience feels redundant after a couple of blocks (i.e. Candy kitchen, thrashers fries, fractured prune donuts, etc.); not a lot of bars/ sit down restaurants on boardwalk itself (they’re off of the beach, closer to Bay Area)
- Further north of boardwalk Beach— Long Beach but very narrow and half of the beach is blocked off by protected sand dune area; Feels cramped/ crowded
- Traffic-flow— OC employs one way traffic patterns, 1-15th street
- Advocacy/ Community Support:
- Community seems to embrace and support tourism and happenings/ events/ groups (i.e. Hotels, restaurants, shops had welcome messages to the biker groups for bike week)
- There doesn’t seem to be a substantial year-round population or much industry outside of tourism so business owners and community appears to rely tourism
- Young family from Lancaster, PA— typically they visit Bethany Beach (less crowded, more kid-friendly than OC, you can drive on the beach, etc.)
- Adults there for Bike Week- VB more family friendly, bars in OC removed from hotels
- Boardwalk business owner—indicated that the OC businesses were struggling this summer; the days you would think would be booming (i.e. July 4th, Memorial Day, etc.) turned out to be quite slow, and then they’d see random spikes in traffic and visitation
- Wait Staff from lunch – doesn’t even live there, comes in from Baltimore, says strip shuts down in October
On Sept. 17, the VBCC held the first outdoor wedding on the Ball Room Patio! Despite the wind and occasional rain, the Setup team led by LaDonya Reynolds (seen below) kept everything looking beautiful!
Here are a few photos from the Shriners Parade on Atlantic Ave from Saturday, Sept 9th!
Click the links below for meeting notes and presentations from the August AAC Meeting.
School Start Dates for Tier 1 Markets
“Get Your Virginia Beach On” Brand Creative Campaign:
CLICK HERE to check out this letter from a potential future visitor to VB. Note the address – Federal Correctional Institute.
Check out some of these great action shots from the American Music Festival. Great work, Team! Thank you to Stephanie Goodman for sharing.