WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — Wielding a $734,000 budget, the marketing apparatus of Wrightsville Beach is prepared to make gains after a year of lockdowns and social restrictions. Overseen by the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, this year’s marketing budget for the beach town represents a 22.5% increase compared to two years ago.
The bureau’s coffers are funded by room occupancy taxes collected at temporary rentals in New Hanover County’s three beach towns. That 6% tax is split into two blocks; half of it goes to funding beach nourishment and promoting travel and tourism throughout New Hanover County, while the second half fuels projects at the specific town from which the tax was collected.
Among the planned expenditures, social media will be a dominant force: $130,000 for ad campaigns on search engines and social media platforms; $20,000 to contract with influencers; $68,000 for ads on audio and visual streaming platforms like Hulu and Spotify.
Kim Hufham, president of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, wrote to Port City Daily in an email that county beach towns “experienced increases in Room Occupancy Tax Collections during most of the Covid months, with the exception of the lockdown months.”
“The Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau post-covid marketing programs are designed to grow visitation by building the off-season (fall/spring/winter) and by targeting first-time visitors, in addition to repeat visitors,” Hufham wrote. “During Covid our primary marketing focus was on in-state visitors who had traveled to Wilmington and our island beaches in the past.”
The new budget, with Wrightsville Beach’s portion approved by the beach town government last week, allocates $588,000 to “Advertising/Media/Services.” The $100,000 “contingency” line item brings the budget to $733,810 total. According to Hufham, the contingency piece is an accommodation for crisis communications — like for hurricanes or a Covid-19 resurgence — “and new marketing opportunities that may arise during a fiscal year and after planning has occurred.”
“The importance of repeat visitors to our destination cannot be overstated, and the Wilmington and Beaches CVB remains committed to marketing to our loyal visitors and to providing a quality visitor experience,” Hufham wrote. “Strengthening the focus to include new visitors identified by research can help grow incremental visitation to our destination.”
The room occupancy tax that propels these endeavors is overseen by New Hanover County. “Every operator of a business or individual furnishing a taxable accommodation in New Hanover County such as a hotel, motel, inn, room rental, tourist camp or other short-term rental, is subject to charging a Room Occupancy Tax in accordance with [state law],” according to the county’s tax website.
The full Wrightsville Beach marketing budget can be found here starting on page 47.
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