Pandemic cut NC tourism revenue by half

Posted November 17, 2020 5:52 p.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2020 7:27 p.m. EST

— The coronavirus pandemic has cut North Carolina's tourism revenue by 51 percent this year, officials said Tuesday, and research shows it may not get better anytime soon.

The loss of an estimated $9.5 billion from hotels, restaurants, vacation rentals and other travel has decimated a key sector of the state economy. Projections show that one in three workers in the travel and tourism industry statewide will be unemployed by the end of the year, if they aren't already.

Marlise Taylor, research director for the North Carolina Travel & Tourism Board, said hotels and commercial vacation rentals are down sharply, even though more people now than in the spring say they want to travel somewhere. Share accommodations like Airbnb are doing a little better, she said.

"Sixty percent of Americans say the recent surge in cases nationwide has made them less likely to travel over the next few months, and nearly 42 percent have canceled or postponed an upcoming leisure trip," Taylor said.

The bureau has spent $15 million in federal CARES Act funding to promote tourism with a safety message, including wearing masks.

That Count on Me NC campaign designed to promote public confidence in businesses that have taken steps to ensure safety has even included legendary racer Richard Petty, as well as Hall of Fame basketball coaches Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University and Roy Williams of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

But state officials acknowledged the industry probably won't recover until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available and people feel secure to head out again.

Officials did note one bright spot: The film industry is doing better than expected.

After a lengthy break in productions, filming is back on track in North Carolina, and two Hallmark movies this holiday season were filmed in the state.

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