Wilmington has enjoyed some positive national press this year, both as a place to visit and a place to stay.
Online travel giant Orbitz named Wilmington-area beaches as their top pick as a late-summer beach bargain; Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Wilmington as the number seven most fun, affordable city in the U.S.; and now Outside magazine has listed Wilmington as number 6 in their “Best Towns” list out in the October issue.
These accolades represent a tremendous value to hospitality-centered businesses in the area, since limited advertising budgets would prevent most, if not all of them, from advertising in the pages of high-profile, high-circulation publications such as Outside and Bloomberg. Not to mention the value of a story promoting the area, which carries far more weight with readers than a traditional advertisement.
“Outside magazine reaches a demographic that seeks active vacation destinations such as ours,” said Connie Nelson,
Communications and Public Relations Director for the Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast CVB. “In addition to participating in outdoor activities, active travelers stay in our hotels, dine in our restaurants, shop for souvenirs, visit our attractions and spend money at other businesses, such as gas stations, grocery stores and nightlife venues.”
Don Harty, owner of Mahanaim Adventures, a Wilmington-based kayak adventure outfitter, expects that Wilmington will see an increase in visitors seeking outdoor recreation other than the beach as a result of the Outside article.
“This summer, 90 percent of my customers were from out of town. The one thing I heard consistently was that they loved the beaches, but after a day or two they wanted something more to do,” Harty said. “They wanted to get out and explore the area and do something unique, something they’ve never done before. Kayaking was the perfect thing for those folks.”
Because of the mild climate in southeastern North Carolina, Harty said he’s able to offer kayak trips every month of the year.
The mild climate here extends the outdoor season to 12-months for many activities, and eight months for others, such as surfing, much longer than the summer beach season. This was a major factor that helped Outside arrive at their inclusion of Wilmington on its list and one of the first reasons new residents name in why they decided to settle in southeastern North Carolina.
Nelson said when respected national publications and online travel sources give a nod to Wilmington, it helps increase the profile of the whole area, meaning that the trickle-down effects from such coverage can have a far-reaching impact, helping to bolster a slow economy for many months after publication.
“Bloomberg’s ‘Fun and Affordable’ ranking is especially relevant during tough economic times,” Nelson said. “Americans still want to travel on whatever budget they can afford, so many are seeking a value. There are a lot of affordable destinations, but not every one can also claim the ‘fun’ factor.”
Combine that with Orbitz’s declaration of Wilmington as a bargain and it can translate into a short-term increase in visitors, a long-term boost due to name recognition, and some real economic growth, something Outside noted in their article.
Outside’s article read in part: “[W]hat sets Wilmington apart from its genteel South Carolina neighbor [Charleston] is an economy in overdrive.”
With Wilmington’s rankings both as fun and affordable and one of the best places to live, this “economy in overdrive” could give a stalled real estate market a much-needed jumpstart, if it draws visitors here and converts them into long-term residents.