Around the time I joined the start-up staff of Virginia Business magazine in 1986, the civic leaders of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and nearby jurisdictions decided that the name “Tidewater” did not properly describe their metropolitan area. The term also referred to the lowlands of Virginia below the fall lines and carried a rural connotation. The region’s muckety-mucks successfully lobbied to change the name of the Metropolitan Statistical Area to “Hampton Roads,” and, as editor of a Richmond-based magazine trying to curry favor with the Norfolk business establishment, I ensured that Virginia Business dutifully embraced the new nomenclature.
Now, it seems, the Tourism and Recreation Cluster Committee of the GO Virginia Regional Council for Hampton Roads has concluded that the “Hampton Roads” designation is not an asset but a liability. Some three decades after the region adopted the name, according to a new report, “Hampton Roads” means nothing to people outside of Virginia.
Reports the Virginian-Pilot:
“While challenges remain in finding consensus on both strategy and implementation of a regional tourism initiative, the single greatest impediment is the regional identity of Hampton Roads,” the report states. “Hampton Roads does not evoke any sentiment that would support a regional tourism marketing initiative. There is little value in collaborative marketing under a brand name that is ineffective.”
“I can’t say, ‘Come to Hampton Roads and vacation.’ That means nothing to anyone …” said Gold Key | PHR CEO Bruce Thompson. “ ‘Hampton Roads’ does not have a geographic identity or put any evocative notion as to where you are.”
Thompson said representatives from the Hampton Roads Chamber, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance all said “Hampton Roads” does nothing to describe the area and they have to take a significant amount of time explaining where and what the area is to companies outside of the state.
Unfortunately, no one can agree on what to call the MSA instead of Hampton Roads. The committee discussed “Coastal Virginia” as a potential brand, but apparently no formal action was taken.
Bacon’s bottom line: In my observation, the region is best known by outsiders as “Norfolk-Virginia Beach.” That doesn’t fly well with residents of Hampton, Newport News and other communities north of the James River who regard themselves as distinct from their brethren south of the river. But I live in Henrico County, and I don’t get my tighty-whities in a knot when people refer to the MSA as “Richmond.” A couple million people live in Northern Virginia, but they’re perfectly happy to tell outsiders they come from “Washington.” If civic leaders want a moniker that will stick, then they should go with either Norfolk or Virginia Beach, and the other communities just need to get over it.There are currently no comments highlighted.