Norfolk tourism officials optimistic about 2021


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been a long year for many at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but things are quickly looking up event-wise for the spring and summer in Norfolk.

A number of events, such as outdoor concerts and the return of the Norfolk Tides, has VisitNorfolk excited for what the future holds.

“It feels great this year compared to last year,” said Sarah Hughes, who the director of marketing and communications for VisitNorfolk. “Business is really opening up. We have a high demand for people wanting to travel and get back into our attractions and restaurants in Norfolk.”

It’s a good sign for the tourism industry, which took a hit in 2020.

Hughes says tourism makes up a huge part of the city’s economy with over 8,000 employed in the city with tourism jobs at hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

Annually, the economic impact would be estimated around $1 billion, according to Hughes.

“We’re expecting 2021 to see encouraging numbers of what 2019 was. The month of April, we saw a higher demand of people wanting to come back into market than we’ve seen historically,” she said.

But like most industries, the pandemic has changed the way they’ve operated.

VisitNorfolk will continue to incorporate virtual events for those not ready to be around others.

“We’re not just thinking about how they can enjoy that attraction in person but how they can still experience that virtually and from afar,” she said. “Including messaging and videos into all the content we have online, so people can still have value and experience something they don’t feel comfortable in person is something we continue to do.”

Hughes says to expect more outdoor events to continue because of popularity, and referenced the Virginia Arts Festival’s Bank Street Stage, which she says sells out of every event.

Outdoor seating at restaurants will also continue to be around and Hughes says they’re looking forward to welcoming people back into the city.

“We’re excited for everything that’s to come. Southern Living Magazine named us as a city on the rise and we’re excited to see that rise,” she said.

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