5 questions for Kim Hufham
Kim Hufham is President and CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, which does business as the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau. The authority is the official destination marketing organization that stimulates economic development through the promotion of travel and tourism.
What do you like best about your job?
I am proud of the role our team plays in driving visitors to Wilmington and Island Beaches. Tourism is hugely important to New Hanover County. According to an annual study, the economic impact from domestic travel for 2017 in New Hanover County was estimated at more than $578 million. The study also revealed that travel and tourism directly provided more than 6,320 jobs in the county that supported a payroll of $141.3 million in 2017 alone. Travel-generated state and local tax revenues saved each New Hanover County resident an estimated $227.
I am fortunate to work with wonderful partners from our area’s accommodations, restaurants, shops and other tourism-related businesses, as well as other city and county officials.
What inspires you?
When the Wilmington area was in the direct path of Hurricane Florence last fall, it was heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and support following the storm. Local officials, business owners, residents and volunteers worked hard to swiftly get things back up and running following the storm, making it possible for us to officially welcome visitors back to the destination they know and love quickly – much more quickly than we anticipated.
Who should we be paying attention to?
I have been asked numerous times, “How is your destination faring now?” I tell people that while many of the area’s signature attractions and iconic structures were fortunate to experience only minimal damage from the storm, some businesses did sustain damage. On the bright side, many of these businesses used the downtime after the hurricane to upgrade and modernize their facilities, including Shell Island Resort, Summer Sands Suites and Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach. South Beach Grill and Oceanic Grill, also located at Wrightsville Beach, both opted to make some pretty cool post-storm renovations and updates. All of these favorite spots should be ready to welcome visitors back by spring, if not sooner. In fact, the Blockade Runner Resort recently announced that it will partially open in mid-February.
What was your biggest challenge this week?
As we prepare for our an upcoming work session focusing on our three-year strategic plan, we are faced with the challenge of how to best adapt our pre-storm initiatives with our post-storm perceptions and strategies. We continue to spread the message that the best thing someone can do for our destination is to plan a future visit to our area.
Favorite N.C. vacation spot?
Given what I do for a living, I might be run out of town if I didn’t say Wilmington and Island Beaches – and I’m not alone. Wilmington has won countless accolades over the years. Most recently, we were voted as “Best Weekend Getaway” during the 2018 WRAL Out and About Voters’ Choice Award contest and were named one of TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice “Top Destinations on the Rise.” There are more than 200 restaurants, shops and attractions in the downtown area alone, not to mention everything to see and do at our three nearby beaches.