CVB Dollars Fuel Out-of-state Push

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 21, 2024
A mural adorns the side of The Savannah Inn, an oceanfront hotel at Carolina Beach. (Photo by Cece Nunn)

In the upcoming fiscal year, tourism officials will continue devoting dollars to getting the word out about the Wilmington area outside of North Carolina.

This year’s budget for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau includes funding the third year of an out-of-state tourism marketing initiative, said Kim Hufham, CVB president and CEO.

The initiative “has given us the opportunity to be in streaming TV,” with total funding of $1 million, Hufham said.

She said the CVB devotes nearly $5 million of its budget, which is funded by the area’s room occupancy tax dollars, to marketing the destination as a whole, from the city to the beaches. The budget also includes a pot of a little over $7 million devoted solely to the area’s beaches, including promotion and tourism-related activities. The room occupancy tax rate charged at area hotels for the county, its beach towns, the city and the Wilmington Convention Center District is 6% each.

Funding in the CVB budget allocated to the convention center district alone is just under $600,000. That business has been growing in recent years as officials work to attract bigger events.

“The biggest market that we have for the convention center on the meeting side is our state associations,” Hufham said. “And of course, we're looking at going after regional as well as smaller national corporate business. You know, we've had several big corporate groups this past year, and sports has really been a good market as well as being able to utilize the convention center, whether it’s a weightlifting competition or a cheering competition.”

An estimated 1,700 athletes and spectators traveled to Wilmington for Nike USA Weightlifting 2023 North American Open Finals in December last year.

Pedro Meloni, USAW director of events and sponsorship, stated in a release at the time, “The city is beautiful, especially with the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. The Wilmington Convention Center is a great venue, and the lively downtown area will surely be a treat for our visiting members and fans.”

In early June, the convention center welcomed the 25th edition of the flagship East Coast Techno Security & Digital Forensics Conference. The event marked the second time that Wilmington hosted the conference, which had an estimated 1,000 attendees.

In March, the N.C. Carolina Association of School Administrators held a conference at the convention center, with about 400 participating, after an eight-year gap.

“This will be the second NCASA conference held in Wilmington,” a CVB news release stated. “The first was in 2016 and another was planned for 2020 but canceled due to COVID.”

John Sneed, vice president of sales and services for the CVB, stated in the release. “Since the organization last held its conference in Wilmington in 2016, the Convention District has expanded, and the destination has much more to offer.”

In addition to downtown Wilmington and the convention center district, the CVB markets New Hanover County’s beach towns – Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.

In May, the CVB touted the return of the 2024 Beach Wrestling Nationals and World Team Qualifiers to Carolina Beach.

In June, Hufham said room occupancy tax numbers were up about 3% countywide over last year, with some hotels reporting a little softening in their market.

“We definitely aren't going to be double digits up this year, but it looks like we still are going to see an increase over last year, and last year was another record-breaking year,” she said. “Everything's looking good for summer."

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