Virginia Beach feels ripple effect from oil spill

By Matt Butner - bio | email

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WWBT) - Virginia Beach has not been touched yet by the Gulf oil spill, but the disaster has caused a ripple effect in the tourism industry.

Many Gulf destinations are struggling to attract visitors, but Virginia Beach may stand to gain from the spill's fallout.

In places like Pensacola, Florida, the beaches are empty, except for oil cleanup crews. It's a different scene in Virginia Beach, which for now is oil-free. While there's not much chance of oil washing up there, the city's tourism officials can certainly understand the plight of some of the Gulf states.

Ron Kuhlman with Virginia Beach's Convention and Visitor's Bureau says he's heard of a few instances of people re-routing their vacations from the Gulf to Virginia Beach. But, he says, those numbers are small, and not something his city celebrates.

"Our heart goes out to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and now the panhandle of Florida in this situation," said Kuhlman.

Tourism is Virginia Beach's second-leading industry, behind the military. Last year, it generated $815-million in spending. It's no wonder city leaders are keeping a cautious eye on the Gulf spill.

"The city, in conjunction with the state, the U.S. Coast Guard, and federal officials are closely monitoring that situation," Kuhlman said.

Meanwhile, the summer tourism outlook is positive- early reports from Virginia Beach hotels show reservations on the rise.

"We've always thought all along that we would show a small increase this year over last through the entire summer season," said Kuhlman. "So far, nothing we've seen has proven that wrong."

Stephanie and Adam Brandt were on their way from Pennsylvania to Virginia Beach Friday when we caught up with them at a rest area along I-64. Oil was the least of their worries.

"We're always worried about traffic and crowds, especially the tunnel- but we left early enough, we're hoping for some good traffic," said Stephanie.

The Brandts will have plenty of company at the beach on this long holiday weekend.

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