Plans to start a Virginia Beach tourism authority have stalled

The Virginia Beach Convention Center on Wednesday, December 9, 2020.
The Virginia Beach Convention Center on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Virginia Beach will not get approval to create a tourism authority during the 2021 General Assembly session.

Del. Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach) said she plans to abandon the bill, which she sponsored for the city, that would have created one.


She said she will do so because some members of the resort community and Republican Del. Barry Knight, who also represents the city, were pushing her to make changes to the bill. She said she asked the city council if it would support changes, and the city directed her to drop the bill.

That means the city council will either have to look for other ways to make sweeping changes to its Convention and Visitors Bureau or wait until next year’s legislative session to ask for permission to move forward with an authority.


Vice Mayor Jim Wood said he would encourage the council to look at other options — including creating a 501c3 or 501c6 organization — that do not require legislative approval.

“There are different ways to solve this dilemma to improve our tourism industry,” Wood said.

The city pursued the tourism authority model after a 17-member task force made up of local business leaders and residents recommended it last year.

The city wanted to create an authority that would handle the city’s tourism marketing efforts currently overseen by city staff. A city consultant said the move would give the local businesses the opportunity to contribute to executive’s salaries to recruit top talent, and to bypass government contract bidding rules so marketing projects could be finished faster.

The new organization would have been similar to the state’s Virginia Tourism Authority. Some of the employees from the city’s Convention and Visitor Bureau would have shifted to working for the authority, which would have been governed by a board appointed by the City Council.

Guy said Del. Knight and resort area business leaders, whom she declined to name, urged her to name which groups would be represented on the board and to include that it would not have the ability to tax residents. She said she did not want to make changes without input from the council because the legislation was written by the city.

“Some of those objectors continued to push their objections and support among stakeholders started to waiver,” Guy said. “I viewed myself as a conduit on this bill to grant the city what it wanted.”

Additionally, Mayor Bobby Dyer said he heard from legislative Republicans that they felt left out of the process. Knight did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

“I was told there was no way it could be amended to satisfy the local delegations Republicans,” Guy said.

The council discussed the issue during its Tuesday meeting and members decided there wasn’t enough time to amend the legislation so they encouraged Guy to drop the bill.

Councilman Guy Tower said the discussions about creating a tourism authority were a bit rushed during the holiday season and he said the council will now have more time to figure out the best way to move forward.

“It is not fatal, it is not tragic, it is just a delay,” Tower said. “We will benefit from the delay and work out kinks.”


Alissa Skelton, 757-995-9043, alissa.skelton@pilotonline.com.

Recommended on The Virginian-Pilot