By Anna Phillips | July 22, 2020 at 10:49 PM EDT – Updated July 23 at 12:01 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Tourism data shows Carolina Beach is bouncing back with near normal numbers of vacationers and others renting houses and staying in hotels.
Signs are up reading ‘masks required’ on nearly every storefront on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
At the Carolina Surf Brand shop, Topher Davis said Thursday, “We’re not worried about the winter like we were six weeks ago.”
Hotels bookend the boardwalk. Room occupancy tax reports show when Carolina Beach lifted restrictions on short-term rentals in early May, before most other municipalities in New Hanover County, the return by guests was quick.
The numbers compare May 2019 to May 2020.
For Carolina Beach, the change was -1.96%.
Both Wrightsville Beach and the City of Wilmington saw roughly 55% declines and New Hanover County as a whole saw a 41% decline. The declines were much steeper for March and April, when most hotels and rental agencies were closed.
For business owners, it has paid dividends.
“We saw a tremendous lift, especially compared to April and I think a lot of that is because folks really wanted to get out; they wanted to break quarantine, get out there in the sun and feel a little bit more normalcy,” said Jeanie Shaffer at Latella Gelato. “We’ve seen it go downhill a little bit over the summer but not a lot.”
Both Shaffer and Davis say numbers have dropped off as the heat wave of July settled in, but overall, business has been good.
“I’m completely surprised,” Davis said. “We opened March 13th and five days later we closed for five weeks. We didn’t know what the summer was going to be like. We had friends on the boardwalk saying, ‘It’s done…we’re not going to have a summer.’ And we’re having great numbers.” In fact, he says the business is nearly on par with where they’d hope to be in a summer without a pandemic.
They also credit loyal, local customers for helping them get by.
“Everybody that’s come in, especially from the Carolinas, has been about supporting local,” Davis said. “They’ve bought stuff from us and we’re having a really good summer according to the numbers we were looking at before COVID hit.”
The Tourism Development Authority for New Hanover County has roughly estimated we’ll experience about 5-million dollars in tourism losses for fiscal year 2020, which ended in June, as well as fiscal year 2021 which began this month. Of course, these numbers don’t account for the losses of businesses that still haven’t re-opened, like bars.
Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.