Kurt Krause currently serves as the President and CEO of Visit Norfolk, joining in 2019. He is responsible for directing the effort to improve the quality of life for all residents through the economic and community benefits of tourism. His history in the hotel industry spans over 37 years, including 21 years with Marriott International, eight years with Aramark, and four years with Gold Key PHR. Arriving in Norfolk in 2014, he led the pre-opening efforts of Hilton Norfolk – The Main, followed by re-opening the historic Cavalier Hotel and Cavalier Beach Club in Virginia Beach.
As well as his career in the hotel industry, Kurt served our Country initially as a Loaned Executive for the Transportation Security Administration. As a founding member of the largest start-up of any private or public organization, he was specifically responsible for many of the consumer-oriented deliverables. For his effort in the participation of founding the agency, in addition to the consumer element, he was recognized with the Department of Transportation Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary Norman Minetta in 2002. Kurt then joined his alma mater, Virginia Tech, as Vice President of Business Affairs; responsibilities included Facilities, Personnel, VT Police Department, Department of Environmental Health and Safety Services, Office of the University Architect, and Real Estate Management.
On the personal side, after enjoying 20 years of playing amateur baseball (2003-2023), winning two national championships, Kurt found enjoyment on stage, participating in the Hampton Roads Dancing with the Stars, performing with the Virginia Opera, and with Hurrah Players in Annie (2018) and Dames at Sea (2019).
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Kurt Krause about how Visit Norfolk is revisiting a successful collaborative campaign from 2020 to see how they can apply those learnings to new need areas. He shares more about the “City with Bite” and how it has led to engagement with the local community in addition to visitors. Kurt also highlights current plans to tell the authentic history of Norfolk through a program called Pathways to Freedom, which tells the story of the Underground Railroad, recognizes the harrowing experiences of those who sought freedom, the individuals and institutions that aided them, and the historical locations that played a part in their journey.
Kurt discusses the often overlooked but crucial role residents play in destination marketing. It’s not solely about attracting out-of-town visitors but also engaging the locals in the activities and experiences the city offers. He shares more about the “City with Bite” initiative, a restaurant series now in its third season, which was invented to motivate residents to patronize local eateries again.
The “City with Bite” series has rejuvenated the local culinary scene and enhanced residents’ understanding and appreciation of the visitor economy. One distinctive feature of the “City with Bite” series is the inclusion of restaurant customers in their episodes. They are invited to share their experiences, reminiscences, and thoughts about the highlighted restaurants, fostering a deeper connection between the local community and the city’s gastronomic landscape.
Kurt also shares some of the upcoming projects Visit Norfolk is undertaking that he’s particularly proud of. For the last two years, the team has been working on a project based on “Pathways to Freedom,” a book by Dr. Cassandra Newby Alexander that narrates the tale of the underground railroad in Norfolk. This venture aims to tell the untold stories of those who braved the perilous journey to freedom, a narrative often eclipsed by more popular accounts like those of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.
Through this project, Visit Norfolk aims to shed light on the harrowing experiences of those who sought freedom, the individuals and institutions that aided them, and the historical locations that played a part in this journey.
One of the most fascinating things about this initiative is the use of augmented reality (AR) to bring these historical narratives to life. For example, the technology can help recreate the imagery of the tunnels under St. Mary’s Basilica, where the enslaved were known to escape. It can also show places such as the slave jail or warehouses that no longer exist. The goal here is to foster an understanding of the city’s history and how it has progressed, not perfectly but significantly, towards becoming a diverse and inclusive community.
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