As more COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Triad tourism is poised for a robust recovery.
Over the three years leading up to the pandemic, with a strong overall economy and major developments downtown, Winston-Salem's tourism and hospitality industries experienced unprecedented growth.
That all changed dramatically in March of last year when everything began to shut down due to COVID-19 — and the hospitality industry was among the hardest hit. The bottom fell out, cutting the city's tourism budget in half.
Visit Winston-Salem President Richard Geiger says it wasn't until vaccines rolled out that things began to change for the better.
"People, once they got vaccinated, felt comfortable with moving around," says Geiger. "And let's face it, we were all ready to get out of the house. I mean we love our loved ones, but boy, we all needed a break. And we all needed to get out and travel and go somewhere and go out to dinner and be with other people."
Since then, Geiger says the tourism industry has been pacing very strongly with the return of youth sporting events, in-person college commencements, and the furniture market.
He says this year's budget — which will be presented to city officials this week — is just down 25 percent from pre-COVID days. He expects a full return by 2022 if the industry finds enough workers to keep the momentum going.