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Gabe Salinas, a recent scholarship recipient of the NTRF, is completing his final externship at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Norfolk Tourism Research Foundation: Making a Difference

Have you ever wondered how we know that over two million people visit Norfolk each year or that these visitors spend approximately $270 per day while they are here?

Have you, or someone you know, ever asked "how can I get started in a career in the travel industry?"

The Norfolk Tourism Research Foundation (NTRF) was founded in 2005 to help answer those questions….and more! Since its inception, the NTRF has raised in excess of $1 Million dollars in private sector funding to underwrite travel industry research, support innovative "think tank teams" and supply $20,000 in scholarships to students at the Culinary Institute of Virginia (CIV), Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and Tidewater Community College. Jack Ankerson, the "Voice of Hampton Roads," who has served as the NTRF Board Chair for the past three years, says "Serving as the NTRF chair has given me deeper insights into the value the travel industry brings to our city. Seeing the student chefs at work and being able to award scholarships to them is even more gratifying."

The NTRF's mission of generating relevant data about tourism's significance to our market and enhancing the quality of life in our region is exemplified by various research projects done in conjunction with the Old Dominion Tourism Research Foundation, The University of Florida Tourism Research Center, and Continental Research located here in Norfolk. These studies have helped identify what attracts visitors (our food, craft breweries, hotels, abundance of water and water sports to name a few), how much they spend when they are here ($270 per day), and how they move about the region.

The "think tank teams" were initiated last year to investigate some amorphous areas that, while difficult to quantify, are significant contributors to the vibrant tourism industry our city and region enjoys. The "Cool Team" collected almost 1,000 surveys and found that
our city has an abundance of cool characteristics to boast about. The VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) team has discovered that this segment of travel may or may not stay in hotels and they actually spend more money than traditional travelers as they feel obligated to take the host out as well as the host wanting to show off the city and its attractions to their visitors. A third team is building a platform for the creation of an Interactive Visitor Center that will enhance the visitors' experience and create a lasting impression for all, ultimately creating a more attractive Norfolk.

Prerequisite to growing the travel industry in our city is nurturing and growing young people to pursue careers in the industry. The NTRF has hosted interns from ODU, VWC, and NSU and works closely with the Culinary Institute of Virginia on its annual Gourmet Golf Event. **Save the date October 23rd, 2017 at OVGC** In fact, Aaron Helveston, the NTRF Development Manager, was a student of Tony DiFilippo at ODU, served as an intern here and was recently promoted to his current positon.

Our relationship with the Culinary Institute of Virginia spans several years. Student chefs participate in a competition to present their dishes at our Gourmet Golf Event, and top winners receive scholarship awards from the NTRF. Andy Gladstein, the CIV Campus President, states "Our students enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and culinary skills while supporting a cause that provides direct benefit to the hospitality industry."

Two of our recent awardees, Alex Laws and Gabe Salinas, have launched very successful careers. Alex Laws, winner from 2014, has worked at the Cavalier Golf & Yacht Club, Field Guide on Granby Street in Downtown Norfolk, and is now preparing to begin a new position at HK on the Bay near Shore Drive in Virginia Beach. Gabe Salinas, winner in 2015, has experience in a range of restaurants from fine dining to sports bars and is now completing his final externship at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Ultimately the NTRF is working to be the acknowledged focal point for the examination of the travel industry's economic and social impacts to our region. Everything we are able to accomplish is thanks to our sponsors and donors who have helped us benefit the City of Norfolk for several years. If you would like more information or would like to get involved, please contact Aaron Helveston at ahelveston@visitnorfolktoday.com or 757-622-7629.

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