April 21, 2020Honorable Robert M. Dyer2401 Courthouse Drive, Building 1 Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Dear Honorable Mayor Dyer and Virginia Beach City Council,
On behalf of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association (VBHA), Virginia Beach Restaurant Association (VBRA), Atlantic Avenue Association, Central Business District Association (CBDA), Hampton Roads Chamber, and Bruce Smith Enterprise, we hope you share our concerns after receiving the unprecedented revised budget briefing on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.
City Staff has estimated that in July, hotel sales will be at 50% of normal activity, and restaurant sales at an even more dismal 25%. If these projections hold true, the impact to these industries will be devastating, with the very strong possibility that many of these businesses will not be able to survive. During the briefing, the impacts to the Tourism Advertising Program (TAP) and the Tourism Investment Program (TIP) funds were also reported and were equally as devastating. Furthermore, since business real estate is assessed from an income approach, the impact to our real estate tax revenues will follow suit. It will take years for our budget and small business community to recover under this scenario.
We have but two choices moving forward. The first is to accept staff’s recommendations to cut the city's advertising budget and hope these dismal estimates do not come to fruition. The choice that we prefer is to aggressively market our city and region and outperform by a wide margin the projected loss of business. As soon as the Governor lifts the beach ban, we should be ready for a continuing $20 million advertising campaign. Our reasoning is that we are an ideal market for the travelling public with our smaller city appeal, wide beaches and short drive time for a tremendous number of visitors. This aggressive, “no surrender strategy”, when successful, will ensure that our small businesses can survive, and the horrendous projections of lost business and tax revenues will not be realized. Never has the axiom that it takes money to make money rung more true. We all know of the return on investment that tourism spending provides. Therefore, we respectfully request that $20 million be dedicated to a marketing effort to get Virginia Beach back in business and avoid the possibility of losing the summer of 2020 and its consequences.
The sooner we start rebuilding our tourism market, the sooner we will return to a much more stable business model beyond 2020. The decisive steps taken by the Virginia Beach City Council will be good for the city budget, the small business community and its employees, along with all of the citizens of our city. Now is not the time to cower, but to fight. Let's be ready to go when the time is right to make every effort to succeed with every arrow we have in our quiver.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our industry’s request.
Russell Lyons Elizabeth Baumann
Virginia Beach Hotel Association Virginia Beach Restaurant Association
George Kotarides Robert Pizzini
President Chairman,Virginia Beach Division
Atlantic Avenue Association Hampton Roads Chamber
Mark E. Slaughter Bruce Smith
Central Business District Association Bruce Smith Enterprise