The State of Cabarrus County’s Travel & Tourism Industries During COVID-19

Cabarrus County has seen steady growth in travel and tourism over the years as more and more visitors come to explore our famous attractions and race season festivities. But as these industries began preparing for the 2020 race season and summer events, they quickly learned that travel and tourism – and our entire lives – will be very different than anything we’ve experienced in previous years.

In 2018 alone, visitor spending generated more than $469M in Cabarrus County, an increase of 5.03% from the year before. This created $8.27M in local tax revenues and $26.57M in state tax revenues, resulting in $493 in local and state tax savings for each household in our county. In other words, without travel and tourism in Cabarrus County, each household would have to pay an additional $493 in state and local taxes.

Fast forward to June 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in over $234 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. travel economy since the year began (U.S. Travel Association). Locally, there were 1,121 job furloughs and layoffs in the hotel industry and thousands more in Cabarrus County’s restaurants, attractions, and retail. So far, more than $30M has been lost in hotel revenue, and cancelled events and fan-less races are impacting the local business economy further.

“The relocation of the All-Star Race, along with the cancellation or postponement of other events that were scheduled to take place here this spring and summer, will result in economic losses for hospitality and tourism business in Cabarrus County,” says Donna Carpenter, President and CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “However, the hospitality industry is resilient. Travel and tourism will be key to economic recovery in Cabarrus County.”

At this time, many hotels are still experiencing lower occupancy rates, but some have reportedly maintained higher occupancy rates or have seen an uptick in business over the last month. “Although the entire industry has been devastated by COVID-19, Extended Stay brands have been able to secure higher occupancy by providing lodging to companies working on business projects, medical personnel traveling to the area to assist with the pandemic, and others,” says Sheryl Kluge, Area Corporate Sales Manager at SREE Hotels. “The recovery process will be all about ensuring our travelers’ safety and accommodating their rapidly changing needs.”

“The key for this region is for companies to start traveling again,” says Vinay Patel, Principal at SREE Hotels. “As the economy opens, these companies need to start corporate transient travel. Large group meetings will be the last to get going in my mind.”

The hotel chain was able to keep all of their salaried employees on payroll, but hourly staff had to have their hours cut. To support their staff during this difficult time, the company started a meal program to provide a hot meal for all of their employees and their families on a daily basis until the demand for the program faded after about eight weeks.

On the bright side, many travel and tourism partners across Cabarrus County have found ways to pivot to support our local community’s needs through food drives, meal donations, PPE production, remote COVID-19 testing sites, and more. A few of the many travel and tourism partners to contribute to our local COVID-19 response efforts are:

  • Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted food drives for the community and became the first professional sports venue in the country to serve the community as a remote COVID-19 testing site in partnership with Atrium Health.
  • Village Corner Comfort Kitchen & Bar donated meals to local fire and police departments, CVAN, the Salvation Army, Cooperative Christian Ministries, nursing home staff, and directly to people in need. They also pivoted to offer private market shopping appointments so residents could safely shop for supplies at the start of the crisis.
  • Southern Grace Distilleries and Moose Pharmacy pivoted to produce hand sanitizers for local distribution.
  • High Branch Brewing Co. created a collaboration beer benefitting the NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund.
  • NASCAR teams pivoted to produce PPE for our local medical workers.
  • Doughgirls Catering pivoted to offer meal pick up and is now partnering with a local brewery to provide brunch.
  • The Bead Lady used their craft to create Concord Strong bracelets to give back and give hope.

If you would like to stay up to date on the latest news and COVID-19 updates from Cabarrus County’s travel and tourism industries, be sure to check out the Cabarrus CVB’s Visit Cabarrus website and blog.

For more updates and stories from Cabarrus Economic Development, click here.

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