June 2023


- "Summertime and the Livin' is Easy"
- Board of Directors/Membership Committee Updates
- Follow-up Info from Luncheon Speakers
- June Luncheon Invitation
- 2023 Membership
- Industry Updates


How perfect a description is the first line of the song "Summertime" for we who enjoy living in Wilmington! OK, the traffic does get a bit much, but "down time" in the summer is perfect for leisure living, even for those who work in the hospitality industry. Wilmington is NOT just for tourists!

Most recently, the Milken Institute released its findings rating the "Best Performing Cities"; in 2023 Wilmington ranked as number SEVEN out of 200 cities comparable in size locations. While our area has grown its tech and finance industry and the largest employees are Novant and our educational institutions, the tourism industry also saw impressive growth of 45.4% with an increase of 23.9% more jobs.

As a comparison, other cities in the "top ten" include Austin, Nashville, Boise and Dallas. Pretty impressive company!!

Contributing greatly to growth in all sectors, including tourism, is the increased number of flight destinations available at ILM (Wilmington International Airport). Flights are or will be regularly or seasonally available to and from Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York (LaGuardia), Philadelphia, DC, Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, New Haven, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Wilmington DE, Baltimore, Atlanta, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Newark. All of these flights mean a larger potential visitor market!

While we enjoy hosting visitors, this is a reminder that there is much for us who live here to appreciate and enjoy as well.

We know it's summer when the Farm Market opens (on Mondays) at Wrightsville Beach. Wrightsville Beach Park is a mecca for residents with a playground, tennis, pickle ball and basketball courts. (Reminder, the first 2 hours of parking are FREE at the park!) FREE Concerts in the Park on Thursdays begin on June 15th. Family concerts are also available at Airlie Park ($10 adult, $3 children) beginning Friday, June 2 with tickets available each week for upcoming concerts.

Carolina Beach's family vibe features a wooden beach-side boardwalk that's ideal for strolling. Dining in a variety of eateries and restaurants is mostly informal and the locals know how good Britt's donuts are! A highlight of any visit or stay in Caroline Beach is the "Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast" every Thursday night throughout the summer. Live music in the Gazebo at 6:30pm followed by fireworks at 9pm. Not to be missed!!

In addition to a pier (free for fishermen or strollers) Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher are located at Kure Beach. There's also a boardwalk and eight public accesses at this laid-back beach.

Locals enjoy dining, shopping and strolling on the Riverwalk in Downtown Wilmington. Bring your "summer company" or enjoy a family outing to tour historic houses, a visit to Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, the USS North Carolina or take horse and carriage tour through the historic district, the largest in the state. Food and drink available at a broad selection of award-winning restaurants, pubs, breweries and more!



Thanks so much to the "new volunteers" who are willing to support WAHA's efforts to bring together members of the hospitality industry and offer relevant luncheon presentations and support our membership. Existing Board Members: Jean Guinup, President, Heather Miura, Vice President, Alexia Franzidis, Director of Member Retention, Ellie Craig, Director of Member Recruitment. Rhonda Bellamy, Secretary. New Board Members and Committee Members: Zack Cain, Treasurer; Membership Committee: Brian Elliott, Kim Schoeffler, Allie Busse and Drew Espy.


To date, in 2023, we have hosted two speakers from organizations critical to our industry, In February, Wit Tuttell, Director of Visit North Carolina provided an excellent overview with regard to the state's accomplishments and ongoing efforts to drive the global and domestic tourism market to NC. To reiterate, Wit won the 2022 State Tourism Director of the Year; we are fortunate to have his leadership for our industry.
Download Presentation

In April, Chris Mackey, Chief Strategy Officer of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) was our guest presenter. Ms. Mackey provided updates on the "state of the restaurant and lodging industry" which included updated information on employee statistics, with pertinent research as to how/why the industry finds itself "short-handed" with regard to employees. Their NCRLA Foundation Hospitality & Tourism Training Program is FREE to NC workers and residents. They also offer the NC Hospitality Industry Job Board a free job board for anyone in the NC hospitality industry.
Brian Eckel and Mike Brown:
New State of the Art NHC Library and NHC Cape Fear Museum
Rhonda Bellamy:
New Rail Trail

Date: June 21, 2023
Time: 11:30 am

$25 for members
$35 for non-members

Ruth's Chris Steak House
244 N. Water Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

Thanks for your interest; we are fully booked for the June 21 meeting. Please watch for an invitation to our August Meeting.

Sponsored by:

Several members (and non-members) have requested information with regard to sponsorship opportunities at our luncheon meetings.

We are pleased to offer this opportunity to any hospitality businesses or businesses that serve the hospitality industry.

We are also seeking volunteers to head committees, etc.:

Please contact [email protected] or jguinup@gc-communications for details.

Wilmington Area Hospitality Association
Annual membership remains at $150 per business (all staff are included in membership)
Luncheons are $25 per member,
$35 for non-members.

Renew or join by credit card.

Renew or join by check and/or print an invoice for payment.


National /State

"At $1.2 trillion, direct spending on travel in the United States in 2022 was on par with pre-pandemic figures." * This is certainly positive news; however, U.S. Travel economists noted that, when adjusted for inflation, actual revenue was down 14%.
Most recently, (May 20-24) 5000 attendees from (60) countries attended IPW, the travel industry's premier marketplace where destinations across the U.S. pitch their destinations and products to the global travel industry. Earlier in the month the Covid vaccine requirement for inbound travel was lifted, lending an even greater excitement from attendees at the show.
"The upcoming summer travel season is expected to be extremely strong." ** Comments from industry heads (accommodations, airlines and car rentals) affirm this based on their summer reservations.
New research from Destinations Analysts indicates that while American's love for travel continues, there are "warning signs" from consumers with regard to "declining travel experiences and the value they receive for their money." *** We know that "word of mouth" is the strongest form of advertising; paying attention to customers' comments and reviews is more critical than ever.
Visit NC's representatives attended the aforementioned IPW. NC held more than (90) pre-scheduled meetings with tour operators and media to promote travel to North Carolina.****
Reminder: Early Bird discounted rates are available for advertising in the 2024 NC Travel Guide through July 31. Email integrated Sales Manager-Travel Stacey Rosseter or call her at (678) 571-7445.

*USTA, April 19, 2023
**USTA, May 19, 2023
***Destination Analysts, May 9, 2023
****Visit NC , May 24, 2023


An exciting element has been added to how visitors can enjoy their stay in Wilmington. Visitors now have the ability to use their phone to connect to a web-based mobile app that can provide them with area information including where to stay and what to do! It's simple to use (aim your phone at the QR code) to view useful destination information. Check it out!
ROT (Room Occupancy Tax) collections continue to trend upward. Collections were up 23.85% in January as compared to the same month last year. The previous year (Jan-Dec 2022) saw an increase of 10.67% over the previous year.
The New Tourism Ambassador program will greatly assist in training knowledgeable personnel who are frontline employees in the tourism industry. This FREE program consists of four modules that take less than three hours and will provide general information on tourism, the kind of tourism "products" offered in the area as well as how to use pertinent information available via the CVB (including the new mobile trip app.)
It's impossible to miss the many signs of commercial growth in our area that will benefit the hospitality industry. New accommodations are "on the books" with signs of either imminent construction or "soon to open" announcements. Tru by Hilton is taking reservations beginning November 15, 2023 and a Marriott concept, the Element, will be under construction shortly at Mayfaire. In addition, a hotel is planned to be on the site of Wilmington International Airport (ILM) as well as he Avenue and CenterPoint off of Eastwood and Military Cutoff Roads, respectively .
Fine dining opportunities continue to expand with the opening of the Preston located in the beautifully renovated Graystone Inn as well as a luxury steakhouse that will open in Landfall on the site of previous Port City Chop House by restauranteur Giorgios Bakatsias.
All of these additions translate into Wilmington expanding it's notoriety as a "must-visit" destination in the South!



Carolina Beach Courtyard Marriott-email
"The restaurant’s story is as legendary as its steaks. The founder, Ruth Fertel, risked her life savings in 1965 by buying a small steak restaurant in New Orleans and then built a reputation over the years of offering the perfect steak, warm hospitality, and good times that never stop rolling. A proprietary 1,800-degree broiler gave her another important edge over the competition.

She added her own name to the restaurant, which had been known as only Chris Steak House, when a fire forced her to relocate the business and she couldn’t continue to use the original name. Now the world’s largest fine dining company, its roots in each location guarantee hometown personal service.

De Castro worked with the restaurant’s founder and has been with the company since 1985. After immigrating from Cuba with his family in 1968, he entered the restaurant business and did everything from washing dishes, doing prep work, and working on the line in the kitchen as well as busing tables, tending bar, and taking orders in the front of the house.

In 1985, Fertel offered him the opportunity to manage the restaurant’s Washington, DC, location, and he took it from struggling to the best performing one in the country. And the rest is history. In addition to the Wilmington location that de Castro has owned for 13 years, he also owns three in the Triangle and five more out of state.

About Fertel, de Castro says, “Her values are unbelievable. She was a very hard-working lady all her life. I learned a lot from her about taking care of customers.”

At Ruth’s Chris, your last bite is just as good as your first. The perfected broiling method and seasoning techniques are why each cut served arrives cooked to perfection and sizzling on a 500-degree plate—just the way Ruth liked it.

Steaks and chops include a 16-ounce ribeye, a 16-ounce New York strip, a 24-ounce T-bone, and an 11- or 8-ounce filet. Want to share the richness of a strip and the tenderness of a filet with someone special? Order the 40-ounce porterhouse for two.

Specialty cuts include the 40-ounce bone-in ribeye, 19-ounce bone-in New York strip, and 16-ounce bone-in filet. Consider entrée complements such as lobster tail, grilled shrimp, Oscar-style, and bleu cheese crust.

In addition to serving the perfect steak, Ruth’s Chris has fish, chicken, and lighter vegetarian fare among the other tantalizing options to please every palate. For example, these specialties include garlic-crusted sea bass, featured fish and shrimp, sizzling crab cakes, and stuffed chicken breast.

Before enjoying your entrée, consider an appetizers such as spicy shrimp, beef carpaccio, sizzling crab cakes, and mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat. Complement your entrée with the signature side dishes such as cremini mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, and creamed spinach.

Are you surprised to learn that the recipes of Ruth’s Chris amazing sweet potato casserole and creamed spinach dishes are available? They are along with recipes of bread pudding, mozzarella and kumato tomato salad, barbequed shrimp, and crab cakes. Just ask your server or another team member.

A prix fixe meal features Ruth’s seasonal classics such as a six-ounce filet paired with three large shrimp or lobster tail as the entrée with sides of creamed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. First, enjoy a starter such as lobster bisque or a salad. The chef’s seasonal selection of dessert finishes the perfect meal.

The bar, which is the home to the popular happy hour menu available from 4-6:30pm, is more than just world-class wines, although some 300 labels are available. Handcrafted cocktails from vintage classics to house specialties are all made with fresh-squeezed juices, premium spirits, and the perfect finishing touches. Ruth’s favorite is the Gambler’s

Ruth’s Chris is the best place to celebrate life’s special moments, such as a romantic steak dinner, an important business meeting, or a private party. Complimentary valet parking makes every arrival easy regardless of the time. “It’s convenient—it’s what counts,” adds de Castro. And it’s those details that add up to the five-star experience.*

*May, 2022 issue, Wilmington Magazine.
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