Wake County tourism takes $9.2 million hit from canceled festivals, sporting events

Visit Raleigh released a report Tuesday that digs deeper into Wake County's economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bryan Mims
, WRAL reporter; Jessica Patrick, WRAL multiplatform producer
RALEIGH, N.C. — From canceled concerts to postponed festivals and sporting events, COVID-19 has cost Wake County a lot of tourism dollars.

A report released on Tuesday by Visit Raleigh shows the numbers from January though May. It revealed that tax collections from hotels and restaurants are down $9.2 million from the same time last year.

According to the report, hotel lodging tax collections for 2020 were down 47.4% from 2019. Prepared food and beverage tax collections were down 26.2% this year compared to 2019.

“With the May tax collections coming in, we’re getting a clearer picture on just how much of an economic impact COVID-19 is having on the tourism and hospitality industry here in Wake County, and the numbers are staggering,” said Dennis Edwards, President and CEO, of Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

With only 10% of rooms filled, Marriott City Center cuts 180 staff down to 15

All but six of Wake County's 160 hotels have now reopened, Visit Raleigh said, and the hospitality industry is already seeing some growth. Hotel occupancy rates are now just above 40% countywide for the first time since mid-March.

You're hard-pressed to find any guests inside the Marriott City Center Lobby, even though the hotel re-opened July 1.

General manager Dave Palumbo says he used to employ 180 people – now he's down to 15.

Of his 400 rooms, he has about 40 filled each night. Most of those visitors are short-term travelers.

Events at the convention center had been the hotel's main money maker.

Now, he gets some business and government travel during the week and leisure on weekends.

The Raleigh Convention Center would normally be busy this time of year, bringing money into downtown Raleigh and visitors to the Marriott. "We should be at the height of our festivals, events and concert season right now, and obviously all of those have been canceled or postponed," said Edwards.

Visit Raleigh said more than 200 conventions, meetings and sporting events have been canceled so far, totaling a $110.4 million economic impact. At least 34 conventions, meetings and group sporting events were rescheduled, totaling a $17.9 million economic impact.

Additionally, more than 100 large events and festivals have been canceled or rescheduled.

Even so, Edwards remains hopeful. He said once we get beyond this pandemic, things look promising for 2022 through 2025, as many sporting events and conventions have shown great interest in the Raleigh area.

In the meantime, banners on the street still give a hopeful, inviting message: "Welcome. We're glad you're here."


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