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Wilmington CVB Plans Move Into Larger Quarters

By Jenny Callison, posted Dec 22, 2023
The Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau has big(ger) plans for the new year.

At a meeting Tuesday of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Advisory Authority Board, the board approved the CVB’s plans to move into larger quarters. If all goes as projected, the bureau’s 15-person staff will move into the city of Wilmington’s new headquarters, the Skyline Center, in March.
 
CVB President and CEO Kim Hufham said that, after three years of leasing space from the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce at 1 Estell Lee Place, her team needs more room, as does the chamber.
 
“The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has had other revenue growth, therefore resulting in the need for additional staff and space.” Hufham said. “Their program of work has allowed them to do some growing. We lease the whole second floor and we need more space; we’ve had to put in cubicles. The chamber needs additional space, and [the move] gives us room for growth and expansion. It’s a win-win.”
 
The CVB will occupy about 4,900 square feet in the Skyline Center, which is just under double its current 2,800 square feet above the chamber’s office suite. Hufham said her organization is very fortunate in the space it’s acquiring.
 
“We’re working with the city, doing a few things to make it more our own space. We’ll have more offices so each individual will have their own office with a couple of offices left over for potential growth. No more cubicles. We’ll upfit the space to have a lobby and reception space to make our space more identifiable. And we’ll have more storage space."
 
“We still wanted to be in the downtown area because our busiest visitor area is the Riverfront, and we work hand-in-hand with the Wilmington Convention Center staff,” Hufham added.
 
While arrangements are proceeding, the CVB still must sign a lease, and the Wilmington City Council must officially sign off on the deal.
 
The CVB has seen significant growth in both tourism and its own operations over the past decade or so. In financial terms, revenue from Room Occupancy Tax grew 121% from 2015 to 2022, the latest year for which there is complete data.
 
“It grew from $10.4 million to $23 million,” Hufham said. “Our initiatives have expanded, our staff also has had to expand. We’re excited about where we’re going.”
 
The bureau has expanded its marketing efforts over the past several years.
 
“Our mandate has always been putting heads in beds,” Hufham said with a laugh. “But with the addition of the convention center, we’ve grown in terms of sports marketing, bringing in more sporting events, especially youth sports. The convention center has been able to see some nice-sized cheering events.”
 
The pandemic created demand for coastal lodging and vacation spots that could be reached by short drives. The demand still exists.
 
“We have seen the shoulder season bump out in both directions,” Hufham said, adding that while the area has always been full of visitors in the summer, there was always room for growth in the spring and fall.
 
“The season used to be late May to Labor Day,” she continued. “Now, it can even start Valentine’s Weekend, depending on the weather, right into October and November. It’s softer in November through January and February.”
 
Hufham said another game-changer has been the Wilmington Convention Center, which opened in late 2010 and has hosted increasing numbers of conventions and other events. Some of those conventions have helped fill in the quieter months.
 
“The first week of December [this year] we hosted a national weight-lifting convention. Right behind that we had another convention,” she said. “During the past year, we’ve been doing some out-of-state marketing, raising awareness of the area.”

Correction: This version of the story corrects the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce's need for a larger space in its current office space.
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