© 2024 WHRO Public Media
5200 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk VA 23508
757.889.9400 | info@whro.org
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why Hampton Roads’ hotel industry is booming while other regions still haven’t recovered from Covid-19

Virginia Beach in particular has seen hotel industry revenues grow by 29% since 2019. (Photo by WHRO)
Virginia Beach in particular has seen hotel industry revenues grow by 29% since 2019. (Photo by WHRO)

Hotel revenues in Hampton Roads are up more than 22 percent so far this year, compared to the same period in 2019, according to new data released by global hospitality firm STR. 

That’s far better than anywhere else in the state, particularly Northern Virginia, which still hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Economist Vinod Agarwal from Old Dominion University said Hampton Roads’ reliance on leisure travelers who drive in has helped the region bounce back.

“Businesses have learned over time that, yes, some business travel is necessary, but some can be avoided due to all these technological advances like Zoom, Teams and other (virtual) meeting spaces,” Agarwal said.

ODU researchers had already flagged the successses of Hampton Roads' tourism and hospitality industries in the university's annual State of the Region reportin October.

Agarwal said places like San Francisco are still struggling to fill their luxury hotels with fewer conferences and business trips compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“The demand for business travel is no longer the same as it used to be. And these are the travelers who used to stay in upscale hotels, luxury hotels. And luxury hotels suffered most due to the pandemic,” Agarwal said.

The region’s revenue growth is largely due to increasing room prices - not growth in the total number of rooms rented.

But even there, south Hampton Roads is outpacing most of the state. Cities like Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach all had modest gains in rooms rented compared to 2019. Much of the rest of the state has seen a decline, including on the Peninsula.

Agarwal expects the region’s growth will slow until it finds a way to get more rooms filled.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

Keep up with daily local news from WHRO. Get local news every weekday in your inbox.

Sign-up here.