Could a renaming be the change the Hampton Roads area needs to boost tourism?

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) —  We all call our region Hampton Roads. Well, some of us still call it Tidewater. But here’s a question – could our region go by another name?

It would be something we’d have to get used to, but community leaders say it may be what’s needed to get more people to visit.

Hampton Roads boasts beautiful beaches, top of the line hotels, a plethora of historical sites and new gathering spots like Waterside and the Main in Norfolk. It is an area that relies heavily on tourism.

Bryan Stephens is the President, CEO Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and says tourism is a big deal to the area.  “That’s big business to Hampton Roads, just in Virginia Beach alone its 1.5 billion.”

Small business owners and the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association gathered to promote tourism at the Virginia Beach Convention Center for the tourism expo on Thursday.

Aimee Taylor, Executive Director of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association, said  “I work with the restaurants in our area, we bring in jobs, we help increase tax revenue.”

“As the port is doing well right now, the military is starting to improve and grow and reconstitute now,” said Stephens. “We need to be more aggressive when it comes to tourism.”

So, how about some re-branding for Hampton Roads? Perhaps a name change?

“Hampton Roads doesn’t necessarily resonate when we look external to Hampton Roads so what do we need to do to market ourselves?” said Stephens.

He says there are a variety of ideas but the front-runner in today’s forum with Developer Bruce Thompson was “Coastal Virginia.”

“As Bruce sarcastically said…when you tell someone you are going to Coastal Virginia, they kind of know you are going to Virginia and they kind of know you are going close to the water, that’s what we want to do and we want to attract people to southeastern Virginia here which is coastal Virginia,” Stephens said.

The re-branding could take years, it’s not going to happen overnight, according to Stephens. He also says our area needs to focus on training a workforce in the hospitality and tourism industry.