George Durant, director of strategic marketing for The Brandon Agency presented the Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee with New Hanover County’s first visitor profile study since 2005 at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Conducted by The Brandon Agency, Sparks Research, and students from the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Recreation, Sports Leadership and Tourism Management program, the visitor study consisted of surveying visitors in locations around New Hanover County during the spring and summer of 2013.
Common comments Durant said the surveyors received about the county in general included: clean beaches, bad drivers, need more bike lanes, parking issues, enjoyed the variety, frequently visit the area, easy to book a room and great for the whole family.
Of the visitors surveyed, 73 percent stayed overnight, and Durant said more visitors were favoring shorter, spontaneous trips. In addition Durant said it appeared that first-time visitors were more likely to stay in a hotel and take in more activities while repeat visitors tend to stay with friends or family members and travel to the county for a specific activity or attraction.
Wrightsville Beach mirrored many of the general county statistics but Durant said there were instances where the beach town stood out, including the overall visitor opinion of Wilmington generally ranked lower than that of Wrightsville Beach. The visitor opinions of the other beach towns were closer to Wilmington’s, he added.
Also Wrightsville Beach and Historic Downtown Wilmington drew significantly more spring visitors than any other site within the county, Durant said.
The top cities of origin for visitors in Wrightsville Beach are, in order, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Cary and Fayetteville; however the top cities of origin for overnight visitors in Wrightsville Beach are Raleigh, Charlotte, Chapel Hill and Greensboro. Other demographic statistics Durant shared with the WBMAC was that the average visitor age range is 45-54 years old and that budgets for trips to Wrightsville Beach typically fell within the range of $500-$1,000.
WBMAC representatives from the island’s main hotels said the budget statistic seemed low and Durant said it was because the summer and spring budgets were combined, with visitors having to pay less for rooms in the spring shoulder months.
Based on the visitor study Durant said the higher-than-average spring visitation should encourage the WBMAC to do more shoulder season marketing and that there may be an opportunity to bundle with Historic Downtown Wilmington to increase the length of stay.