Celebrating thousands of tourism and hospitality employees during National Travel and Tourism Week

In 2021 visitors spent more than $79 million per day in the state.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 12:00 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Peak tourism season is right around the corner and that’s music to the ears for the many communities that rely on the influx of tourism to support their local economies.

From beaches to a plethora of quality restaurants and breweries, southeastern North Carolina is a hotspot for tourists, but a lot of work goes into ensuring visitors have a great experience.

There’s more than 6,000 tourism and hospitality employees in New Hanover County and National Tourism and Travel Week seeks to raise awareness about the importance of those who work to make peak seasons run smoothly.

To give you an idea of how much an impact the industry has in North Carolina, in 2021 visitors spent more than $79 million per day in the state. That was still mid-pandemic, meaning that number is expected to be much higher now.

The annual weeklong tradition was established 40 years ago in 1983. The event highlights the impact that businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies have on local economies and job markets.

The annual “Travel Rally Breakfast” was held on Wednesday morning at the Wilmington Convention Center. The breakfast was held to highlight the thousands of workers in New Hanover County, and awards were presented to specific individuals who stood out and made a difference in the previous year.

“In 2021, we had an economic impact of over $930 million. We’re really keeping our fingers crossed that in 2022 we will top the 1-billion-dollar mark. We employ over 6,100 people in jobs annually. Lots of taxes that come into our community that helped fund so many things, so it is really big business for our community,” said Kim Hufham, CEO and president of Wilmington and Beaches.

Small businesses that operate during peak travel seasons heavily rely on vacationers to keep their business running. The owner of Tony Silvagni Surf School in Carolina Beach said that their typical season is expanding to numbers they don’t usually see.

“Carolina Beach is definitely seeing a different hit because we specifically are servicing more clients each and every year with more tourism. I don’t think there’s much of a gap in the season. Now, it’s starting to be a little bit more of a year-round type of gig. We’re excited because we get to keep our doors open,” said Tony Silvagni.

Silvagni said that about 90% of his business are from tourists and without them he wouldn’t be able to keep his doors open, further proof of how important the industry is here.