WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — As the mask restrictions loosen, many men and women are vacationing for the first time in over a year.
“It feels wonderful. It feels like you’ve got the world back,” said one visitor from Raleigh.
As a beach town, Wrightsville Beach Holiday Inn general manager Tom Cook said they’re seeing more travelers from all parts of the East Coast.
“As a whole, we’re seeing a lot more traffic coming in than just the North Carolina drive in regional traffic,” said Cook. “From the feeder markets, we’re starting to see more Virginia, and up to and including New York. And from the South, down to Florida.”
With Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekends almost sold out at most beach hotels, Blockade Runner general manager, Nicolas Montoya said it’s encouraging to watch bookings make their way back to normal.
“We’re getting close,” said Montoya. “We’re getting close. And again part of it is what is trying to figure out… what is it that we’re trying to do from a safety perspective.”
Though bookings and vacations are up, many in the hospitality industry are still hitting one roadblock… new hires. Both Montoya and Cook said its been difficult to find enough help.
“It has been difficult for, compared to normal years in the pre COVID era,” Cook explained. “I think the additional federal subsidies for unemployment as well as state subsidies for unemployment have clearly had an effect. Especially on the service industry.”
Though new hires are low, upcoming holidays are mainly sold out with bookings 85 to 90 percent back to normal, as more and more tourists come to the beach to escape.
“We’ve been very… obviously always been very blessed. But we’ve been a place of refuge and a place to go for a lot of different people,” said Montoya.