Last Thurs. at our Annual Meeting, GRCVB, along with hospitality-industry consultant Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), unveiled the results of the Destination Strategic Plan (DSP) to grow tourism in Wake County to more than 21 million visitors annually by 2028.

We thank those who attended and heard about the plan—we hope you enjoyed the event!

In case you missed it or could use a recap, here's an overview of the DSP (the full plan can be found at and, following, a recap of the hospitality award winners...


DSP overview

The DSP report is a culmination of a 12-month research and planning process led by JLL. More than 1,800 individuals were engaged in the planning process including:

  • Leaders from Wake County, City of Raleigh and the 11 other municipalities within the county
  • 17-member steering committee that met 11 times
  • 1,044 resident survey responses
  • 380 stakeholder survey responses
  • 36 focus groups

JLL meeting

The process used to build the DSP was grounded in three, complementary principles:

  1. Stakeholder consensus
  2. Tourism infrastructure and destination development
  3. Increase all visitor flows across conventions and meetings, sports and leisure tourism

“The 12-month planning process has led us to some fantastic conclusions and concrete ideas for moving Wake County forward as a premier tourism destination,” said Dan Fenton, executive vice president of JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality Tourism Strategy division, who oversaw the planning process. “We’re most proud of the inclusive nature of the process. Having engaged with more than 1,800 individuals from both the public and private sectors, we can truly say this is a comprehensive plan to serve all areas of Wake County.”

A steering committee made up of members of both the public and private sectors within Wake County was formed to oversee the planning process.

The result is a robust plan with both procedural and infrastructure-related recommendations centered around eight priorities of focus in order for tourism to grow in Wake County:

  • Meetings & Conventions
  • Sports
  • Events
  • Individual Leisure
  • Key Attractors
  • Destination Development
  • Regional Demand Drivers
  • Quality of Place

Fayetteville street crowdAlthough there are many, 10 of the key recommendations within DSP include:

  • A two-phased renovation and expansion of the Raleigh Convention Center (RCC) to include more space and, at a minimum, a 400+ room headquarters hotel (adjacent or connected to the RCC).
  • A 100-150k-square-foot, multi-use, indoor sports complex (including 12-16 courts and the ability to seat 4,000-5,000 spectators arena style) to host youth and amateur events and tournaments and add to the year-round inventory of fields and courts used for basketball, volleyball, wrestling etc.
  • A multi-use MLS stadium (regardless of location) that can host 75+ events annually including other sporting events, entertainment, small conferences/meetings and consumer or public shows.
  • The development of the Blue Ridge Corridor into a sports, entertainment, arts, scientific, medical and agricultural campus, including renovations and upgrades to PNC Arena to enhance the visitor experience and allow the arena to book more events, concerts, meetings and conventions year-round. (Note: Only if a lease extension with the Hurricanes is agreed upon.)
  • Strategies to identify and increase signature events and festivals in the area as well as blockbuster traveling or permanent exhibits at area arts and cultural institutions.
  • Adding iconic design elements/features and unique visitor experiences to planned future development projects within Wake County such as Dorothea Dix Park to draw visitors, not just provide quality of life/place benefits to residents.
  • Strategies to grow the area’s reputation around esports including hosting major gaming events, developing production and high-performance training facilities and even a possible interactive attraction to draw visitors—playing off the area’s rich culture within the gaming industry.
  • Strategies to grow unique and authentic visitor experiences such as People-First Tourism.
  • Recommendations to increase international visitation from Canada, Europe and emerging markets such as China and India through working with the area’s corporate sector, academic institutions and other destination partners regionally.
  • Consistent guidelines, standards and direct measurement principles for future projects funded through the Wake County and City of Raleigh Interlocal Fund.

“Tourism is at an all-time high here in Wake County. However, if we want to remain competitive and continue the current rate of growth, it’s essential that we leverage the county’s full potential as a tourism destination,” said Dennis Edwards, president and CEO of GRCVB. “We feel the recommendations made by JLL—with great input from a broad base of stakeholders—in the Destination 2028 plan will help us achieve our goal of increasing visitation from 16.45 million to 21.7 million visitors annually over the next 10 years.”

People First Tourism Swank
Now that the DSP is complete, the steering committee, which oversaw the planning process, will be replaced with a Blue Ribbon Task Force, which will be taking on the strategic advocacy for the implementation of plan (the Destination 2028 implementation process).

“The Destination 2028 plan outlines many great ideas to grow tourism in Wake County; it is now up to the public and private sectors working together to put this plan into action,” said Harvey Schmitt, president emeritus, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and chair of the Destination 2028 Blue Ribbon Task Force.

“The very same things that attract visitors to our area also drive talent recruitment and affect the quality of life for all residents within Wake County,” added Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for eastern Carolinas and member of the Destination 2028 Blue Ribbon Task Force. “This is why we hope the private sector takes partial ownership of the Destination 2028 plan. It has potential to drive broader economic development for the region.”

Next Steps/Implementation for Destination 2028

  • JLL will be back in Raleigh/Wake County to meet with stakeholder groups (area municipalities, civic and community leaders etc.) in Sept. to review key recommendations of the plan as well as to review DSP reports being customized for each town.

  • The Blue Ribbon Task Force of leaders who have agreed to serve in Destination 2028’s implementation also will convene in Sept.
  • Stakeholders and partners are encouraged to spend some time reading the plan, especially as it relates to their areas of interest. (Send plan-specific feedback or comments to JLL by going to and clicking on the “Comments” tab until Sept. 30.)
  • GRCVB will have devoted staff resources to managing the implementation of Destination 2028 by Late 2018/Early 2019. Destination 2028 recommendations applicable to GRCVB will be fully integrated into the Bureau’s annual business plans starting in 2019-2020.
  • The community is encouraged to read the Destination 2028 plan as well as keep up-to-date with implementation efforts by visiting and subscribing to GRCVB's Tourism Talk blog, where we will be sharing news, updates and specific action plans as they pertain to Destination 2028.

The DSP research phase has been completed. And as of Fri., Aug. 17, 2018, GRCVB and the entire destination's work began. Let's take Wake County visitation to the next level these next 10 years! 

These are great days for all of us in the tourism industries in Wake County, and they are about to get better. Stay tuned…

2018 Annual MeetingAlso at the Annual Meeting, we presented our annual hospitality awards...

Isaac Hunter Excellence in Service Award: 
Jessie Brandes
Front desk representative at Homewood Suites by Hilton Raleigh/Cary

Horizon Award: 
Jordan Holley
Sales manager at Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle

Annual meeting awards 1

John B. Ross Jr. Leadership Award: 
Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha, co-owners of Brewery Bhavana and Bida Manda
Van and Vanvisa Nolintha received the John B. Ross Jr. Leadership Award for their great contributions to the city’s tourism and restaurant industries.

Thad Eure Jr. Memorial Award: 
Dr. Stephen Scott, president of Wake Technical Community College
Entering his retirement, Dr. Stephen Scott received the Thad Eure Jr. Memorial Award for his leadership at Wake Technical Community College in addressing the tourism employment and training needs in Wake County.

Annual meeting awards 2

Lifetime Achievement Award:
The late Jim Hobbs (1948-2018), director of the Hospitality Alliance of N.C.
Jim Hobbs received a posthumous award for his dedication and devotion to N.C.'s hospitality industry. From his obituary: Jim Hobbs tirelessly devoted the last 20 years to protecting the lodging industry at the state and local government levels. Jim had a huge heart for people and passion for the people who work in the hospitality industry across our state. He dedicated his life to the N.C. tourism industry and developed a legacy of legislation and supporters that will sustain tourism businesses for the future.

Another big thanks to our award winners for all they do and have done for Wake County's hospitality industry and our visitors.

Photos: Jonathan Corbett, Brian Magee and Chris Richman