NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - New data from a Visit North Carolina report shows substantial declines in tourist spending in almost every county.
Martin, Pitt, and Craven Counties had the worst 2019 to 2020 reports.
Local businesses in Craven County say they have had to be resilient to change for years.
The destruction of Hurricane Florence in 2018 had many businesses just regaining their footing when the pandemic pulled the rug from underneath them once again.
“I have personally worked downtown for probably over three or four years now,” said Hannah Gaskins, a sales associate at Silver Line. “But definitely within this past year, there were many, many days that there was no one in, at all. There would be no sales, we would close early, we would not even be open every day of the week... which was very unusual.”
Craven saw just under $115 million in visitor spending in 2020. A 31.9 percent decrease from the previous year.
Thankfully, visitors are taking interest in downtown New Bern once more.
“It’s definitely dialed down some so people are getting more comfortable with getting out and shopping,” said Gaskins.
For other businesses in the area, the pandemic marked a time to get creative.
“We definitely saw a reduction of foot traffic downtown because people were staying home and staying safe,” said Natalie Kidwell, who works at Surf, Wind, and Fire. “Being forced in a position where you aren’t even relying on foot traffic or relying on tourism, we’ve kind of become more creative.”
They opened up a bar and coffee hangout for shoppers and passersby to enjoy.
“We had emergency toilet paper kits and we had hand sanitizer kits and we offered more than just retail,” said Kidwell.
With anticipation brewing for events and festivals to hit the books again, these local spots are ready to get things back to the way they were.
“We’re just excited to meet new people and have more life downtown than we have had in the past,” said Kidwell.