Beach business booming

Ice cream cones and horse-drawn tours of downtown Wilmington. It's tourist season. And that should mean big bucks for local businesses.

But for street vendor Bill Schwartz, it's been slow-going. He's been selling ice cream and hotdogs to tourists along the Cape Fear River for 13 years.

"It seems to be down more than in years past," Schwartz said 

It's especially slow on hot days, he said, because tourists flock to the beaches.

And it shows on the strand. Traffic is tough. Parking is scarce. And business is booming.

Many hotels and restaurants are seeing more tourists here at the beach than in years past. That means more dollars for local businesses.

"This year, business is definitely up from last year," said Matt Wiles, manager at Buddy's Crab House and Oyster Bar. "It seems the tourists have gotten here earlier. I think people are traveling closer to home versus flying. So, in that sense we are seeing more people drive in and more bookings at all the hotels."

That's definitely the case at 1 South Lumina Avenue Motel, where reservations are up compared to last year. They're nearly 100 percent booked through July.

"Incredible. I cant believe we're getting as many nights as we're booking," said Alan Smith, manager of the motel. "A lot of my neighbors are booked. I saw many 'no vacancy' signs last night. I think it's going to be a good year for all of us."

That's what businesses are banking on. For tourists, it's just another day at the beach.

Reported by Sara Straeten