Triangle hotels, shops seeing business fall amid coronavirus fears

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Hotel cancellations have ramped up in the Triangle as coronavirus fears grow.

It's having an effect on small businesses that rely on tourists and visitors.

"We've been trying not to panic," said April Morey who owns the Cookie Shop. The retro-style cookie store just opened Wednesday off Avent Ferry Road near NC State University.

But Morey's grand opening has been slow.

"We miss our students. We hope they will be back soon."

FULL TIMELINE OF CORONAVIRUS IN NC

Morey was banking on foot traffic from those students and university staff.

But the university's new policy on virtual learning over coronavirus fears has not only sank Morey's sales but her staff, too.

Half of them were NC State students who've left to go back home.

Not to mention she was also counting on the St. Patrick's Day parade, now canceled.

Morey is now thinking about delivery service for customers. Friends are now volunteering to help.

COVID-19 Cases Related to North Carolina:


"That's what small business does -- you're faced with a challenge -- you have to figure out another way," Morey said..

At Backyard Bistro, business is steady.

Co-owner Joe Lumbrazo mandates that customers use sanitizing wipes as they enter. His business sits across from PNC Arena, where the Carolina Hurricanes play and other major events take place.



"If they were to shut down anything every there, we'd have to make adjustments over here," Lumbrazo said. "We've got employees that have been with us all 11 years and now I got to tell them I've got to cut their hours back because of something we really can't control. It's gut-wrenching. We're not doing it yet. We're going to go status quo. We're going to see what happens and pray."

In Wake County, there are 27,000 visitor-related jobs.

There are 13,000 in Durham County.

Tourism is big business in the Triangle. in 2018, tourism revenue brought $369 million of state and local tax money between Wake and Durham counties.

Asked what effect the coronavirus could have on the local tourism economy, a Visit Raleigh spokesperson said, "There's just no way to predict the economic impact at this time."

Hotels, however, are seeing an increase in cancellations. At the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Raleigh, there's been a 30 percent jump since last week.

"We're doing everything that we can to keep the majority of our staffing whole, understanding that there will be some cutbacks due to business demands," said Leon Cox, who manages 250 employees at the hotel.

Some full-time hotel workers may see reduced hours or adjustments to meet demand.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.