Wilmington Economics: Tourism

I am very fortunate to live in Wilmington, NC. We have beautiful beaches, a thriving downtown area, incredible restaurants, and a wonderful neighborhood. With everything Wilmington has to offer, it’s easy to understand why it has been a vacation destination for years and continues to grow in popularity.   

My family and I live near Carolina Beach. Here, as in many places in the city, traffic is a hot topic of conversation: Saturday traffic is hectic from early morning to late evening; work commutes are a little longer during peak season; and the traffic around the office is always healthy. However, traffic is a small price to pay for the financial impact tourism has on Wilmington. My three daughters worked for Squiggly Ice Cream in the summers. Like most of the business on the islands, the primary source of revenue for this small Carolina Beach business is tourism.  

Tourism continues to play a significant role in Wilmington’s economy. Visitors contribute to economic growth, job creation, and tax revenues. In 2023, domestic and international visitors spent nearly $1.06 billion, a 14% increase from 2022. That impact helped create 6,676 jobs in the tourism industry 2023 and $276.6 million in payroll. Local tax revenue from travel-related businesses contributed approximately $38.9 million.  

It’s not just the beaches that attract the tourists. The Azalea festival is a major draw, with over 250,000 attendees both local and visiting. The addition of the Wilson Center and Live Oak Pavilion has helped attract visitors for shows and concerts. The Wilmington wedding scene has gained a lot of attention, as well, hosting approximately 2,500 weddings in 2023, ranking it 143 out of 933 metropolitan areas in volume.  

Visitor spending helps fund critical projects as well, including beach renourishment, the Wilmington Convention Center, ocean safety programs historic downtown restorations and upkeep, and countless other initiatives necessary to support the prosperous tourist season. I’ve lived in Wilmington for 14 years and am happy to call it home.  I will happily sit in traffic a few minutes more during my commute, in the name of tourism. I welcome tourism, and the benefits the industry brings to our city and local businesses.   

~ Roger


N.C. Visitor Spending Soars 15 Percent in 2022 | NC Commerce 


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