Wake County tourism breaks record in 2018; new hotels sprouting in Raleigh

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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Wake County tourism is at record levels.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A record number of tourists visited Wake County in 2018, bringing billions into the economy.

"Visitation is very key in the overall economic development we're seeing here, and we're really, really happy with the rate things are going," said Visit Raleigh spokesperson Scott Peacock.

Wake is outperforming the statewide county average for hotel occupancy.

More than 16 million visitors came to the county last year, spending $2.5 billion and helping to support more than 26,000 jobs.

Raleigh is an attractive destination to host conventions, sporting events, and business gatherings.

A handful of hotels are sprouting up across the area.

The luxury hotel line Westin is weaving its way into the Crabtree Valley Mall area and building a location at Creedmoor Road.

A boutique hotel is cementing itself at 1 Glenwood Ave.

Even with this development, tourism officials worry there's not enough to keep up with demands.

"We still were able to outsell the amount of rooms that we added to the market," Peacock said. "That shows that the demand for overnight visitation in Wake County is still higher than the amount of hotel we can add in the inventory. That's a great problem to have."

At the Sheraton Hotel on Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh, the hotel is at 100 percent capacity on a Monday night. The place is sold out thanks to a convention.

"It's busy because not only do you have group pieces, you've also got business transit travelers that come here," said Sheraton General Manager Leon Cox.

He also said 2018 was a good year.

"September, October ... (There was) very high tax collection, the highest probably in the history of tax collections," Cox said.

Hotels brought in $28 million in tax collections in 2018. Food and beverage contributed $30 million.

"That amount of tax revenues generated is saving each local resident about $675 a year in taxes that they would have to spend," Peacock said.

Five new hotels are under construction and 30 more projects are on tap.

A five-story boutique is going on the old Firestone property on Dawson Street and another hotel is heading to a parking lot across from the popular Poole's Diner.

Folks in the industry said the extra occupancy space will help, but what they really need is large 500-plus-room hotels downtown.

"The Convention Center is fantastic but often times we'll lose out big groups that want to come here because our hotel package can't keep up with it," Peacock said.

Officials said that all signs show 2019 will continue on the upward trajectory.

A total of 375 events had been booked totaling 271,000 room-nights of future business so far.