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Travelers Hope To Get On The Road Again, Expert Tells Local Officials

By Laura Moore, posted Jan 28, 2021
Research shows that more than half of Americans are open to travel, an expert told local tourism officials Thursday.
Many travelers seem to be itching for adventure, a tourism industry expert told local officials Thursday.

Data shows that excitement about traveling is at its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, said Kimberly Vince-Cruz, vice president of tourism market research firm Destination Analysts.

According to Vince-Cruz, 56.7 % of those surveyed are open to travel, which she says “is all good news for the travel industry.”

Every week since March 15 last year, Destination Analysts has surveyed more than 1,200 American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the company's website.

The availability of vaccines has had a significant impact, with 60% of American travelers saying they are more optimistic as a result and with more than a third of potential travelers making travel plans, the research shows.

North Carolina-oriented travelers, those who have visited or are likely to visit within the past or next three years, are even more likely to have planned travel recently, Vince-Cruz said.

Vince-Cruz spoke during a tourism webinar for partners and stakeholders hosted Thursday by the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In addition to research on traveler attitudes, the session highlighted information on room occupancy tax revenues and the progress of downtown Wilmington’s $31 million North Watefront Park.

Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, presented Room Occupancy Tax data that reflected a 2.6% countywide increase between July and November 2020, with double-digit increases for the area's beaches and double-digit decreases for both the city of Wilmington and its Convention Center District.

“Our beach collections were up over our COVID projections,” Hufham said.

People seeking more outdoor spaces on the one hand, and the cancellation of conventions on the other, impacted the data, she said.

Moving forward through the typical slow winter months, Hufham says officials will continue to monitor consumer behavior and trends along with the effects of vaccine distribution.

Sandy Speagle of LiveNation gave an update on the plans for events at the city of Wilmington’s North Waterfront Park, which is currently under construction in downtown Wilmington.

The 7,200-capacity concert venue is expected to host 20 shows a year with a variety of genres to include rock, pop, country and hip-hop artists. A number of local civic events will also be held in the venue, which will include a VIP-balcony. Four-seat VIP boxes and limited sponsorship opportunities are now on sale.

The riverfront concert venue will be surrounded by green spaces, trails, gardens and playgrounds.

LiveNation has worked with experts to create new technologies and implement advanced protocols to ensure the safety of its visitors, said Speagle, who said research shows that 71% of fans agree attending live music will be even more important to society after COVID-19.

Additionally, LiveNation has taken over events at Greenville Lake Amphitheater, a 1,300-person venue that is expected to host 40 to 50 events per year, according to Speagle.

The webinar presented information regarding the impact of visitor media campaigns. A large majority (80%) of travelers to the area came from in-state with most of those for day trips (56%).  

Tom Hickey, of the destination marketing agency French | West | Vaughan, said future campaigns hope to change those numbers.

“We are hoping to see a dramatic drop in day trips in favor of overnight visits,” Hickey said.

To keep up with the popularity and demand for more interactive digital media, the CVB will unveil a new website next month.
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