NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Domestic visitor spending in New Hanover County decreased by 22.6% for 2020 to an estimated $598 million compared with 2019 spending, according to the results of an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.
Unsurprisingly, during the pandemic year, tourism employment in NHC dropped from 6,680 in 2019 to 5,455 in 2020.
“On the heels of nine consecutive record-breaking years for visitor spending, it is disappointing yet not surprising that tourism spending and direct tourism employment for New Hanover County both decreased during 2020,” said Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority. “The decreases are a direct result of travel restrictions and negative shifts in visitor sentiment toward travel during the outbreak of COVID-19. The global pandemic is also the reason why countywide room occupancy tax collections decreased by -14.53% with $13.26 million dollars in total collections for calendar year 2020.”
Despite a decline in spending, New Hanover County (NHC) ranked 7th in visitor spending among North Carolina’s 100 counties, better than many larger urban destinations because visitors sought out destinations with outdoor activities and open spaces like the beaches, parks, and gardens.
Huffham said the community benefits from visitor spending through job creation, and that travel-related tax revenues offset the burden on locals.
“As travel and tourism returns to more normal levels, we remain cautiously optimistic that Wilmington and our island beaches will once again rise with steady increases in jobs and visitor spending during 2021 and beyond,” said Hufham
Statewide, visitor spending was down 32% to $19.96 billion compared with 2019 and tourism employment fell 26%.
“We are extremely gratified that tourism thrived in 20 counties in the face of pandemic shutdowns and other impediments to travel,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “And despite the bad news for North Carolina as a whole, our ranking at No. 5 among states for visitation is a position of strength for rebuilding our tourism economy. Given the state’s resilience and vast appeal of its natural beauty, our creative cities and our authentic experiences at every turn, we’re confident that we’ll regain what has been lost and exceed the spending records of the recent past.”
Click here for details of the Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2020.
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