Thursday, July 22, 2010

Michael's Seafood: America's Chowder Champion

For the second year in a row, Carolina Beach's Michael's Seafood beat out the competition (including those from New England) be crowned as having America's best chowder.

By the way, if you're interested, you can now buy the chowder in stores.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It was biz-ay at the beach on the Fourth!

Of course, if you were down here, you would know this already!

"Traffic lined up for miles at times during the Fourth of July weekend in New Hanover County's beach towns, and parking lots were nearly full at area attractions," says the Star-News.

According to surveys and guest lists at several hotels and attraction sites, the bulk of this weekend's visitors came from just hours away on Interstate 40.

Jimmy Pope, owner of Golden Sands Motel in Carolina Beach, said 70 percent of the people who stayed at the hotel during the weekend were from North Carolina cities such as Raleigh, Durham, Kernersville and as far west in the state as Boone.

That's not surprising considering that in-state travel is both convenient and a constant trend, said Kim Hufham, president of the Wilmington Cape Fear Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Our largest feeder market we have is the Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill area," she said. "It's a great drive. You hit I-40, drive for two hours and you're here."

There were non-Carolinians around too.

Like many attraction sites, the Battleship North Carolina tracks where visitors live by asking for their ZIP codes. The results of this weekend's ZIP code survey were not available Tuesday, but Heather Loftin, promotions director for the N.C. Battleship, said she noticed a colorful array of license plates just by scanning the parking lot.

"I saw New Jersey. I saw New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas," she said.

"It was all over the board," Loftin added. "It wasn't necessarily from the East Coast."

Pope said he met a couple from Alabama who were visiting Durham last week and decided to travel to Carolina Beach for a day-trip since they wouldn't be visiting a Florida beach like they usually did.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Carolina tourism up

Tourism is up in our great state, according to the Charlotte Observer, who says the "beach is beckoning this year - good news for North Carolina's tourism industry."

AAA Carolinas predicts a 12 percent increase over last year in Fourth of July holiday travel. And along the coast, businesses say they're seeing more tourists than in the past two years. ...

It's too early to tell whether the trend will carry through the summer - school hasn't been out that long. But Caroline Meeks, who runs Victory Beach Vacations in Carolina Beach, said her rentals recently jumped again after a strong early spring, then a lull in May.

"If I look at the numbers for the whole year, we are up," Meeks said. "Unfortunately, some of our reservations are from the Gulf Coast. People are saying they had to cancel their reservations there and make new ones."

Like it did last summer, the company is still getting a lot of last-minute reservations, Meeks said. Customers also are asking for shorter rentals.

"We've adjusted," she said, by cutting required lengths of stay and by staffing the office until 9 p.m. "If the mom says, 'OK, we can go. Let's see if we can find a place,' and they want to go tomorrow morning and it's 8 o'clock on Thursday, you want to have somebody there to answer the phone."

We have noticed some of these trends as well. In fact, a recent visitor changed up his original Alabama Gulf Shores trip because of the Gulf oil spill and instead came to Carolina Beach. We're always happy for the business -- just wish it was for another reason.

We are also getting many more "last-minute" requests. Whereas a year ago people were planning their vacations a couple of months ahead of time, now we're getting those calls and emails just a couple of weeks before. And instead of week-long stays, we are seeing more and more 3- or 4-night sojourns at OBP.