Virginia Beach launches $2M ‘We’re Open’ campaign to attract visitors from cities within driving distance


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — “This year, we’ll summer smarter.”

It’s one of the lines you’ll hear in commercials that have begun airing in cities up and down the East Coast as part of the City of Virginia Beach’s latest full-court press effort to stimulate its multi-billion dollar tourist industry.

Until last Friday, the city’s 28 miles of public beaches were closed to the activity most people spend thousands of dollars to enjoy each and every year: sunbathing.

As a result, the hospitality industry nosedived. It helped to bring about record unemployment and fear that some businesses may not make enough during the summer season to sustain themselves through the offseason. Most tourism-related businesses make the money they need to survive in the several months spanning between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

It’s why earlier this month Councilman Guy Tower proposed City Council approve an emergency $2 million for an advertising and marketing campaign that could help position the city as a “top-of-mind” destination.

“We are advertising that we are transitioning that we are ready for people to visit,” said Ron Williams, one of Virginia Beach’s deputy city managers on Friday.

The commercials, two of which have been posted on the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s YouTube page, play to the nostalgic and simple nature a day at the beach brings.

The spot then transitions to highlighting the safety precautions taken as a result of COVID-19.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to define the gold standard in beach safety and cleanliness,” the voiceover says. “And when you are ready, we’re open for you and your family.”

Several different iterations of the ads will be released in the coming weeks, according to Williams.

Currently, the visitor’s bureau is circulating the campaign in 10 cities that it is believed guests would “drive from”: Washington D.C.; Richmond; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Baltimore; Charlotte; Greensboro and Raleigh.

“We are being very cautious about encouraging visitors from hot spot areas,” Williams said. “When they are ready and we start to see cases drop down a little, we’ll encourage their visiting as well.”

It’s estimated a minimum of 58.3 million consumer impressions will be generated as part of the campaign, according to documents with the city manager’s office. A 2019 study by the Virginia Tourism Corporation found every $1 in advertising generates $7 in estimated visitor spending.

The “We’re Open” tag line was already selected as the one that would be used in summer 2020. Virginia Beach native and musician Pharrell Williams even wrote a custom song for it.

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