Local News

Raleigh Visitor's Bureau Asks For Loan To Promote Tourism

Posted January 25, 2002

— The hotel industry is facing its worst year in three decades, thanks to a sluggish economy and cuts in business travel. Promoting tourism is an expensive proposition, but local experts say now is the time to spend money on it.

The Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau wants $250,000 to help bring visitors to town.

Visitors to Wake County spend more than $3 million a day at museums, hotels, restaurants and other attractions. It adds up to $1.7 billion a year, and the spending trickles down into everyone's wallets.

"People then pay their employees with that money, it affects everyone. It affects lawyers, dentists. Everyone in our community is affected in a positive way by the visitor dollar," said Jay Mahan of Davidson and Jones Hotel Corp.

The trickle-down effect was reduced to a slow drip in 2001, and local hotels are feeling the pinch. Mahan's company owns and operates two Sheraton hotels in the Triangle.

"Prior to Sept. 11, the market was down about 10 percent. Since that time, it's down approaching 20 percent," Mahan said.

Recent studies show the hotel occupancy rate nationwide could drop to 59 percent this year, the lowest level since 1971.

Industry experts do not expect a full recovery until 2003.

"Many times travel is what is cut first and what comes back last," said Dave Heinl of the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The CVB wants a $250,000 loan from the city and county to promote tourism. It said that it cannot afford to wait for the economy to pick up, so members plan to do a little traveling of their own.

"Our responsibility is to go outside Wake County and bring people in that are going to spend money in hotels, in retail stores, so our entire thrust is outside of the area," Heinl said.

Wake County commissioners approved a $125,000 loan to the CVB on Tuesday. Raleigh City Council members are still debating the request.

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