RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- House Bill 2 definitely made headlines, but Raleigh's tourism and entertainment industry still had plenty to show off.
As 2016 comes to a close, insiders are telling ABC11 that Raleigh and Wake County that tourism economics are strong, but the region missed out on exponential growth because of the controversial bathroom bill.
"We remain committed to encouraging visitors, meeting planners and sports rights holders alike to make the choice to be warmly welcomed by Raleigh's passionate locals," Loren Gold, Vice President of Visit Raleigh, said in a statement to ABC11. "A diverse community of artists, athletes, creative-class innovators, business and tech workers, students and educators-all of whom make up a cultural combination found in no other place, unlocking opportunities for new experiences and learning."
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There are still two months of lodging tax collections to be received by Wake County Revenue, but Gold says Calendar Year 2016 is project to surpass that of 2015, which the highest total collections on record at $22.4 million.
The latest data on hotel occupancy shows Wake County outpacing North Carolina and even the U.S. average with 71.2% occupancy (66.7% nationwide)
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Still, since HB2 was passed, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) confirms the loss of 24 meetings, conventions and sporting events in Wake County as a result of organizers protesting the bill. These events would have filled and estimated 24,500 hotel room nights and earned $8.5 million in projected economic impact to the county.
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Looking ahead, the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance (GRSA) is submitting 57 bids to host various NCAA championships in Wake County for academic years 2018/19 through 2021/22, totaling $30 million in projected economic impact. Gold said these bids are active as the NCAA has not awarded sites for these events yet and a decision is expected in April.
As for music, Dave Rose of Deep South Entertainment, said the fear for 2017 isn't canceled shows - it's the tours that simply skip North Carolina.
"They'll just decide to play Virginia or South Carolina and kind of just quietly bypass us." Rose speculated to ABC11. "There's a potential for that and I hope that doesn't happen."
Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Boston and Ringo Starr all canceled shows in 2016 to protest HB2. Rose said Raleigh still filled its 85 live music venues that gave an opportunity to local talent. He also encourages every music act to come to Raleigh, especially if they disagree with HB2.
"You've got a loud microphone," Rose said. "They can say anything they want and people will listen."
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Raleigh tourism remains strong, but HB2 limited growth