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Tourism Leader Predicts Banner Season For Wilmington Area

By Cece Nunn, posted May 5, 2015
Kim Hufham predicted Tuesday that this year’s tourist season will continue an upward trend for Wilmington and nearby beach towns.

Hufham, president and CEO of Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, shared her forecast Tuesday morning during the CVB’s second annual Travel Rally Breakfast at the Wilmington Convention Center. The event coincided with National Travel & Tourism Week that continues through May 10 and is part of a U.S. Travel Association advocacy and awareness campaign.

“We believe that we could very well see our best summer yet,” Hufham said, speaking before a group that included professionals who work in the tourist industry or tourism-related fields.

She based her prediction on a steady increase in local tourism spending in recent years. While numbers for 2014 aren’t expected to be available until later this month, Hufham said tourism spending in the Wilmington area reached more than $477 million in 2013, a 3.8 percent increase over the previous year. The industry also generated more than $41 million in local and state taxes, and more than 5,460 people are employed in local travel- and tourism-related jobs, according to CVB statistics. Those jobs represent a payroll of more than $105 million, Hufham said.

Visitor dollars come into the area even during winter months. In December 2014, room occupancy tax dollars collected in New Hanover County were up $17.5 percent over the same month in 2013, according to the CVB’s spring newsletter.

“Truly, tourism touches just about every industry that we have here,” Hufham said.

Tourism can also make the area more attractive to potential employers, she said, using the example of Vertex Rail CEO Don Croteau, who has often said the quality of the Wilmington community was part of the reason the company decided to establish a rail car manufacturing facility in the city.

“You never know who that visitor may be and what their plans are,” Hufham said.

The bureau uses a variety of avenues to market the area, including producing videos, available in a gallery on its website and YouTube channels, that highlight area attractions, such as Airlie Gardens, the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher and the Carolina Beach boardwalk.

Hufham announced Tuesday that the bureau is launching a series of industry blogs, with George Edwards, executive director of Historic Wilmington Foundation, serving as the first blogger.

During last year’s Travel Rally Breakfast, the CVB launched a community-wide marketing campaign called #spreadtheWilm to capitalize on social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Also last year, the city of Wilmington, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and the CVB partnered with AppyCity for the creation of an app to provide residents and visitors with information about Wilmington that’s accessible through their smartphones and tablets. Hufham said Tuesday that the app has resulted in 57,000 downloads to date.

Sheila Brothers, a radio personality who hosts The Sunny Morning Show on Sunny 104.5, also spoke at the rally. Brothers writes for The Wilmywood Daily, a website that reports news about movies and TV shows filming in the area. She said she enjoys serving as a guide for visitors from all over the U.S. and overseas who come to see sites where filming has taken place.  

“Wilmington is so magical when you look at it through someone else’s eyes,” Brothers said, encouraging rally attendees to be tourists in their own hometown as a way to help visitors.
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