Tourism industry leaders have meeting, discussing COVID-19 impacts

Carolina Beach gives public access to beach on May 8, 2020. (Photo: Lakeeda Johnson / WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — It’s a whole new world for business owners as they face an uncertain future in the face of COVID-19.

The Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau held a webinar Thursday to discuss tourism recovery.

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Since the pandemic, tourism in New Hanover County has seen a domino effect from employees to visitors.

“It was previous to the pandemic, over 6,500 people were employed in this industry, so it is important that our industry is back up, and running to become strong again, because so many people do depend on that,” New Hanover Tourism Development Authority President Kim Hufham said.

Hufham stated that the industry generates more than $613 million in annual economic impact, creates more than 6,000 jobs, and contributes $54 million to the state and local tax bases.

Hufham said it saves each county resident an estimated $228.31. She said to get their momentum back up, they will have to start with safety.

“We also want to make sure that our workers, our residents, and our visitors are all safe, and confident when they come to our destination,” Hufham stated. “That we’re doing all we can in doing our part to make the experience great for all.”

The authority held a webinar with its industry partners to talk about marketing plans and how they will move forward during this summer’s travel season.

Hufham said they wanted to clarify what the state is doing and its research.

“We wanted the industry to understand that we were basing this on the research, what it was showing as far as travelers sentiment, what they’re going to be looking for when they do start traveling again,” she said.

Hufham said they are doing a fall campaign.

“We’re going to be looking for open spaces, and things that they can actually get out and enjoy, for relaxation, and wellness. Looking for joy, there’s been a lot of negative, so looking for joy again in the experiencees, outdoor experiences to escape,” Hufham expressed.

She said they are also encouraging those in the hospitality industry to take part in the the Count On Me North Carolina Initiative, which empowers guests and businesses to help keep everyone safe from COVID-19.