Local News

Tourism industry prepared to weather recession

Posted March 1, 2009 4:05 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's hotel, restaurant and resort industries employ about 10 percent of the state's work force – more than half a million people. In 2007, visitors to North Carolina spent more than $16 billion dollars in the state.

As the recession deepens, those in the hospitality business expect to take a hit. Industry leaders gathered Sunday in Raleigh to learn how they can weather the recession.

Barry Doyle said feels the pinch at his Raleigh cafe. "February seems to be down about 15 to 20 percent," he said.

To beef up business, Doyle said, "We're going proactive at it and gonna start advertising."

Other ideas were on the table at the three-day conference on hospitality and tourism. Hospitality industry leaders and North Carolina business boosters shared best practices for controlling costs and delivering great service. Representatives of some highly successful restaurants shared their secrets.

"The biggest challenge right now is in the lodging side of our industry," said Paul Stone, of the state restaurant and lodging association.

He told attendees that the lodging industry is dealing with lagging demand and sliding room rates.

Those at the conference noted that North Carolina's geography plays to their advantage.

The state is within driving distance of most major population centers on the east coast. When families cut back on vacation plans, they often choose to drive rather than fly.

"Traveling via car, especially with the gas prices at a little more reasonable level, is still doable for folks," Stone said.

"We can still get folks from a 4-5 hour radius to come visit and obviously when they come visit hotels, the restaurants are going to benefit as well," he continued.

Doyle said he is ready to weather the economic storm: "We've seen some hard times, and ... you just hang in there. The tough survive, I guess."