Southeast
Mark Darrough

NC - It's bound to be a busy summer as eager travelers flock to Wilmington, beaches

Local tourism experts predict it will be a busy summer as once Covid-cautious travelers beeline for the coast to make up for lost time.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– Local tourism experts predict it will be a busy summer as once Covid-cautious travelers beeline for the coast to make up for lost time.

“New Hanover County is seeing the return of visitors,” said Kim Hufham, president and CEO of New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, last week during the Arts Council of Wilmington/New Hanover County summit. “If you’ve been downtown, especially starting about Thursday or Friday with this beautiful weather that we’ve been having, you’re seeing visitors on the streets, out and about.”

2019 was the greatest year on record for the hospitality industry in New Hanover County. Local tourism expenditures surpassed $658 million. Nearly 6,700 workers were employed in travel and tourism jobs. Then, just months into the new year, news of Covid-19 spreading throughout the region closed public beaches and shuttered eateries and attractions for months, as health officials scrambled to learn more about the novel coronavirus.

After beaches reopened around May 2020, guests began booking short-term rentals, often while simultaneously homeschooling children or working remotely. Families still felt comfortable staying in rental homes, limiting their travel to the surf, Hufham explained. The steady number of tourists in seaside communities was a surprise to the visitor’s bureau, which was expecting the area to suffer more of an economic blow from a lack of beachgoers.

Through the pandemic, New Hanover County’s tourism industry benefited from its coastal environment. Hufham said beach and mountain destinations fared much better than metropolitan hubs, such as Charlotte and Raleigh.


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