From the Crystal Ballroom at The Cavalier Hotel, Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key|PHR delivered the Keynote address for the first Chamber Leadership Series of 2018. Just days into the official re-opening of The Cavalier and nearing the one year anniversary of Thompson’s Norfolk Hilton The Main property, Thompson spoke of the trials and triumphs of The Cavalier restoration. “When the property became available, it was seen as a prime resort location, no one had any intention of saving this hotel, in fact, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I’m smarter than them,” Thompson said.
The packed ballroom audience was treated to a curated slideshow of historic Cavalier photos. The black and white Historical Society photos of women holding parasols and men in top hats strolling The Cavalier grounds of the 1940’s did not seem out of place amongst the grandeur of the crystal chandeliers and oceanfront views. Thompson spoke of the importance of authenticity and it was his genuine enthusiasm for preserving the authenticity of this jewel of Virginia Beach that shone through.
During the months of restoration and renovation, Thompson remarked on the countless letters he received from people who sent in their personal love stories and their love stories that honored The Cavalier. When a tour became available for the public to view the progress, “Over 10,000 people came to tour this place and every one of them had a story of what The Cavalier meant to them,” Thompson said. Those stories will get to continue and new legacies can be created.
The Cavalier property contains not only the hotel and grounds, but an 85 home community in the surrounding neighborhood as well as the Cavalier Beach Club. The luxury club for hotel guests and the Cavalier neighborhood community residents will also have a public component and will be a low rise design to preserve the views of the oceanfront.
Just a week out from the official opening, Thompson has already been hard at work on his next project as he works on the development of the Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel. This 300 room hotel will feature a rooftop restaurant, incredible landscaping, legacy suites and will be a destination that will rival The Main in Norfolk.
Delegate Glen Davis was one of the guests in attendance. When asked what this type of attraction means for the area he said, “It means two things to us. It’s a trip back in America and to the history of Virginia Beach and a look at the historical figures and movie stars that once stayed here, but it also looks towards the future to the future presidents and stars that will get to have this experience. Secondly it means that the oceanfront can truly be part of a destination experience, this type of 5 star luxury you may have previously only been able to find in Los Angeles, now it’s here in our town.”
Thompson reiterated his goals for the region to collaborate, to pool their resources and combine their “total tourism offering to market the entire region, this will widen our net and allow us to attract a different demographic.” Thompson is not concerned about hotels competing with each other, he is concerned about making this entire region a tourism destination. “Instead of us fighting between hotels and between cities, when we collaborate, we can compete with anybody as far as the tourism industry goes,” Thompson said.
No stranger to innovative thinking, Thompson discussed the idea of rebranding our region as Coastal Virginia. “I don’t know if the answer is Coastal Virginia, but I know people will recognize we’re on the coast and we’re in Virginia.” Thompson’s vision for the future of our region is inspiring and just as The Hampton Roads Chamber means business and seeks to be an inspiring ignitor for the businesses of our region, Thompson continues to think regionally and creatively with projects continually in the works.
Amidst the stories of the rebirth of The Cavalier, Thompson used the setting to announce the withdrawal of his proposal for the Virginia Beach pier. This hotly contested area of the beach has sat untouched for decades. “We have to continue to reinvent ourselves all the time and this could be transformative.” Thompson announced the pier proposal has been withdrawn to allow other proposals to come in. His vision for the pier may indeed resurface, but for now amidst his other projects, Thompson is taking a break from the pier transformation.
The Cavalier will remain a gem and will continue to produce stories, make memories, and shine a light from its perch over the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.