Highway 6: “Come Back” campaign luring tourists back to Wilmington and area beaches after Hurricane Florence

Highway 6: “Come Back” campaign luring tourists back to Wilmington and area beaches after Hurricane

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -Hurricane Florence is two months in the rear view mirror, but it’s still too early to say ‘bye’. That monster storm that dumped more than three feet of rain on our region, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau has a campaign up and running reminding people to come back - the region is open for business.

"A lot of people may be saying why are you pushing tourism right now, some of our residents and things are still recovering,” said CEO Kim Hufham. “We want to be aware of that, but we also want to be mindful that over 6,300 people in New Hanover County rely on tourism dollars to make a living. We need to get those businesses back open so they can sustain those people.”

The owners of Mr. Bagel Meister opened their franchise just before the Memorial Day weekend. It was an important deadline to try and meet.

“We have such a high volume of tourism coming through,” said manager Donna Conroy. “All those people and their money are really what keeps your businesses going through the lean months of the year.”

The bagel shop ended up closed for two weeks after Hurricane Florence hit the coast.

“We had it bad, but it could have been much worse” says Conroy. “We really were lucky, all things considered.”

Kure Beach Mayor Craig Bloszinksy agrees.

“We had about four dozen homes damaged, and while it’s bad, the winds from the hurricane aren’t what had me nervous. It was all the rain. The town seemed like it was filling up like a bathtub with drains clogged from all the debris.”

Drive around town, now, and the casual observer would d be hard pressed to notice. There are random tarps along some roofs and some downed debris, but much of it has been picked up. Life is getting back to normal.

“That’s the message,” said Hufman. “Tourism pumps more than $550 millions into the local economy and we want those tourists back.”

Kure Beach already looking ahead to tourists spending a weekend, or week, through the holiday.

“We’re so proud of the work everyone’s done,” said Bloszinksy. ”We’re looking forward to the Fantasy Christmas Show, Dec. 8 at Ocean Front Park."

Beach renourishment plans, long in place, also kick off in December. The project is expected to wrap up in time for turtle season.

“We’re so lucky to be a part of this community,” said Conroy. “We want to remind people we’re open, here on Pleasure Island. We want you back; we need you.”

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