Wake County tourism continues to plummet as pandemic stretches on

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The streets of downtown Raleigh are still fairly empty.

"That's the sad thing. I mean we had a record year in 2019. All the indicators were we were going to have an even better year in '20," said Dennis Edwards, president of the Greater Raleigh Convention Visitors Bureau.

But since March, Visit Raleigh continues to watch tourism numbers fall.

READ MORE: Full coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic

"Currently, we've lost 308 conventions, meetings and sporting events," Edwards said.

Hotel lodging tax collections are down 52.8 percent through October. Prepared food and beverage tax collection is down 24 percent. Last year, those taxes generated $63 million. This year, they expect they'll make at least $20 million less.

"The majority of those tourism tax dollars go back to help fund things like the convention center, the PNC arena, expansions at museums," Edwards said.

Still, they're hopeful Wake County will start to welcome visitors in June 2021 and get back on track.

"The good news is there is still a lot of interest for years beyond '20, mid '21. So we're spending a lot of our time booking new business," Edwards said.

Also good news, 49 big events have already been rescheduled for future dates and they will bring in more than $33 million.
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