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LOCAL TOURISM TAKES A COVID-19 HIT

Massive drop in visitation numbers and occupancy rates anticipated this year

BY H A N N A H L E E | P H O T O G R A P H Y BY C O R N E L L WAT S O N he list of canceled events is a long one by this point, six months since the start of the global pandemic: Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the American Dance Festival, the PLAYlist summer concert series, Fourth of July celebrations and more. Others went virtual, like CenterFest and Music in Your Alisha Verwayae, 10, and Brittany Whelan took Gardens. In a world spending in 2020 will likely be without COVID-19, indoor and down 45% from 2019’s numbers. outdoor venues would be That equates to nearly 5.9 packed in the summertime. This million fewer visitors to the Bull year, there were no visitors. No City – and some $419 million vendors. No music in the air, in lost visitor spending versus no frothing beers. It’s a scene the year prior, which saw a that’s persisted: Streets – and record-high $932 million spent hotels – that would normally be across lodging, transportation, packed with guests are eerily food and beverage, retail and empty, save for a few mask-clad entertainment industries. pedestrians. “The hospitality and leisure That visual only scratches the sector,” said Susan Amey, CEO surface of local hospitality sector of Discover Durham, “has been woes caused by COVID-19. hit arguably harder than any Discover Durham told Durham other. … One of the things that Magazine that projected visitor

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by the tourism industry, roughly 5% of Durham’s entire workforce. An estimated half of those jobs have since been lost. Neighboring Chapel Hill is combating the same issue. Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, said in July that the area will be down approximately $95 million in total projected revenue for 2020. “That will impact the bottom line a dip in Unscripted Durham’s pool. for [the] town and county,” Paolicelli concerns me the most, is just said. “That will impact sales tax, some of the wonderful and occupancy taxes. It’s going to beloved businesses in Durham be a tough time. We hope to be that might not survive.” out of it in fall 2021, but to paint We’ve already seen closures at a rosy picture that everything’s Northgate Mall in May, Durham going to be fine right away coworking and maker space The would be misleading.” Mothership in June and The Businesses had to reinvent Northern Spy in July, as well as themselves over the past few a handful of other restaurants, months to try to make up for like Gonza Tacos y Tequila, those missing hospitality dollars. DeeLuxe Chicken and, most They’ve transferred to accepting recently, True Flavors Diner’s orders and payments online Lakewood location. Prior to and implemented sanitation COVID-19, there were 12,836 measures. They’ve applied for visitor-related jobs created government loans and started

Profile for Shannon Media

Durham Magazine Sept 2020  

The Food and Drink Issue

Durham Magazine Sept 2020  

The Food and Drink Issue

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