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'Fall Is The New Summer': Tourism Officials Look At Coronavirus Impact, Recovery

By Laura Moore, posted Sep 10, 2020
Visitors to the Riverwalk in downtown Wilmington a few years ago enjoy a sunny day. (File photo)
The tourism and hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Thursday.

So the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority dba Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) presented a webinar Thursday to share information on research that has been done to align with focused recovery plans for the next fiscal year. 

With mild weather expected well into the fall, the CVB plans to capitalize on that with their newest campaign theme, “Fall is the new summer.” 

“It’s a perfect time to plan a trip with moderate temperatures, fewer crowds and off-season pricing,” said Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority.

Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC, presented updates on state resident research that reflect a $6.8 million loss in visitor spending as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing “unprecedented destruction to business, but it is slightly better than what is happening nationwide and we are moving in a positive direction.”
 
Tuttell’s research reveals that commercial lodging was down by “almost half of what it was it was last year,” and that customers' concerns are more centered on “safety and security” rather than “price breaks.”  

In response to these concerns, Visit NC initiated the Count on Me NC statewide advertising campaign. It is a public health initiative that empowers visitors, guests, and businesses to help keep everyone safe from COVID-19, according to the website countonmenc.org. 

Businesses are encouraged to participate in the Count on Me NC training modules that contain best practices and procedures to ensure the health and safety of staff and guests.   

According to a 26-week coronavirus research study conducted by Destination Analysts, nearly half of potential travelers are not confident that they can travel safely with 42% of those surveyed saying that they will not travel until there is a vaccine available. 

Assuring visitors that they will be safe when they visit is imperative considering the economic impact these travelers have on the area, officials said.

The average per day spending per travel party is $519, according to Kimberly Vince-Cruz, vice president of Destination Analysts. 

Equipped with this information, Hufham presented the fiscal year 2020-2021 Recovery Strategic Plan initiatives and fall marketing plan. 

The Strategic Recovery Plan focuses on three main areas of concentration including: community building, customer engagement and organization sustainability. 

“We want to align the public-private sector and elevate the community,” Hufham said. “We plan to do this through promotion of diversity and inclusivity, and by supporting our artists and creative economy.” 

Another part of the plan includes reassessing the target markets and defining the best messages for business and leisure travelers to deliver related to health and safety. 

Health and safety ranks among the top concerns of travelers, so the CVB’s fall leisure marketing campaign will focus on highlighting their participation in the Count on Me NC Campaign and showcasing local heroes and influencers. 
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