We were invited to attend the Virginia Beach State of Tourism luncheon this past Thursday where we learned all about the city’s tourism performance in 2017. We were flattered to be included in this session! It means we’ve appeared on the city’s radar after joining the hospitality band wagon in 2015. We’re grateful to have this opportunity to become a source of knowledge for those of you who can benefit from the points of goodness below. So, we wanted to take this opportunity to pass on what we learned. If you are looking for the cliff notes version, here goes:
VIRGINIA BEACH IS A DESTINATION WITH UNTAPPED POTENTIAL THAT IS REALLY GOING PLACES!
The luncheon was held in one of the Virginia Beach Convention Center‘s Grand Ballrooms. There were probably close to 250 people there. All attendees were Virginia Beach professionals connected to the hospitality industry in some fashion. We networked a bit, ran into some friends we haven’t seen in a while and enjoyed a wonderful lunch by Distinctive Gourmet.
The High-Level Stuff
Shortly after lunch, CVB Director Brad Van Dommelen took the stage and began presenting the latest tourism data. It’s great to hear right off the bat that 2017 brought a record number of visitors to Virginia Beach – a whopping 19 million people. Of this number, 10.1 million of these visitors were overnighters!
In learning that the average hotel daily rate is about $126.49, we were excited to affirm that our product pricing is valued right on the money! While comparing our pricing per bedroom to that of a standard hotel is a little “apples to oranges,” (since our homes offer so much more), we love giving travelers much more bang for their buck yet at a comparable price within our market. It’s important in the short-term rental industry that we are competitive with both other rentals and hotels alike.
Dommelen went on to explain the pacing report and occupancy numbers they originally projected for 2017. The numbers were slightly lower than predicted for February, July, April, and September. Why you may ask. Weather! Snow, excessive rain and hurricanes affected vacation plans for many. Furthermore, because the majority of those travelers were in “drive-to-markets” and weren’t tied down by a plane ticket, the decision to stay put was likely an easy one. A spike in the usage of travel insurance can also be attributed to this statistic.
With the introduction of the Sports Center and Dome Site and all of the awesome beer and music festivals our city puts on during the fall months, Virginia Beach will welcome the reputation as a weatherproof city. Come rain or shine, there is so much to do! These new additions will provide a safety net for many travelers no matter the weather forecast or time of year.
We also got to see a virtual tour of the Virginia Beach Sports Center. WOW, we can’t wait! It’s going to be pretty darn cool, especially the back patio with the stage and food truck set ups!
Down to the Details, The Perception Study
After Director Dommelen covered high-level data insights and last years’ numbers, special guest John Martin, CEO of SIR, a strategic management research firm, energized the room with more juicy details. SIR created a focus group consisting of people living in the cities where most travelers are visiting from. He called it “a perception study” where they asked questions to get a gist of what consumers are saying about Virginia Beach while using competitor cities for comparison. Those competitor cities include the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, and Ocean City.
High Awareness, Low Familiarity
We learned Virginia Beach has a very high level of awareness, i.e. people know of our city but they have a low familiarity with us. Thus, future city advertising dollars spent in target markets will emphasize a mix between our “Live the Life” brand as well as our local lifestyle, ultimately educating people of all there is to do here.
Awareness → Familiarity → Consideration → Trial
What Visitors Want the Most From a Beach Town
Besides the obvious checkpoints one considers upon planning a vacation like safety, affordability and quality accommodations, VARIETY was the most popular “want” among beach town visitors. Yes, vacationers want to hang out at the beach but they also want options. They crave dining experiences, adventures, shopping, music, and entertainment! Travelers look for vacation spots with the beach AND things to do if it happens to be rainy or cold. They want variety. Variety is the spice of vacation!
The Next Generation of Lifelong Visitors
Millennials are on the cusp of becoming the nation’s largest living adult generation. It’s also well-known that millennials work to live (instead of living to work). Thus they are more apt to spend disposable income on things like vacation and experiences.
Millennials are a generation we all want to form a strong relationship with in terms of all things travel. In this day and age, all of us, especially millennials, are becoming more mindful and purposeful in our thinking. This evolution towards intentionality means it’s more important than ever to market and advertise your product with the utmost transparency to really cut through the advertising clutter.
Another big takeaway that really resonates with us is that a major part of “the millennial magic” is in their anticipation of a trip. The excitement alone makes travelers happy and gives them something positive to look forward to. So as a professional in the industry, it’s to your benefit to provide a memorable first impression. One that is trustworthy, informative, passionate and personable.
Since millennials will become our city’s loyal return guests, it’s important all hospitality leaders know their traits. We have to move toward catering to hyper-connected, confident, independent, collaborative, fearless travelers. This groups word of mouth will ultimately make or break you.
As leaders in the vacation rental industry in Virginia Beach, we look forward to forging the charge and expanding the guest services that we provide at the level of service we are known for. This event only accelerated our passion for staying ahead of the trend. We strive to help Virginia Beach visitors tap into the unbridled potential of this area. Virginia Beach is on course to be less of a hidden gem and more of a renowned destination! #LivetheLife