GRCVB hosted its 36th Annual Meeting on Thurs., Aug. 17, 2023, at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater at Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts. The meeting marked the halfway point in the implementation of the Destination Strategic Plan (DSP), a countywide initiative launched by GRCVB in 2018.

Here’s a summary...

GRCVB Board of Directors chair Valerie Hillings, Ph.D., reported 2022 tourism numbers.

  • 17.8 million people visited Wake County in calendar year 2022—a 13% increase from 2021 and just 100,000 visitors shy of the county’s all-time record set in 2019.
  • Those visitors spent $3 billion, which is the most visitor spending ever in Wake County and 26% more visitor spending than in the prior calendar year.
  • Visitor spending also generated $287 million in local and state tax collections, a new record.
  • Wake County occupancy tax collections were up 26% in 2022-2023 over the prior fiscal year, at $36.5 million, and prepared food and beverage tax revenues were up 14% year-over-year at $43.4 million.
  • Combined, interlocal revenues reached $80 million—the best fiscal year in the history of these two taxes, for the second year running.
  • Tax revenues generated by visitors saved each Wake County household $601 in 2022.
  • Visitor spending directly sustains the livelihoods of 24,591 people in Wake County who earned a payroll of $830 million in 2022. Both of these figures are up 15 to 20% year-over-year.

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The Bureau acknowledged outgoing board chair Mark Zimmerman and presented its annual hospitality, memorial and leadership awards to the following:

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After Hillings’ report of countywide indicators and other Bureau accomplishments last year (which also are published in the newly available 2022-2023 Annual Report online), GRCVB president and CEO Dennis Edwards took the stage to present a summary of DSP implementation progress.

“In 2017 we (GRCVB) commissioned a 10-year Destination Strategic Plan on behalf of Wake County,” Denny said, “to have a clear platform through which our partners can work together to strengthen our area’s destination product and substantially increase overnight visitation.”

He continued: “The DSP’s ultimate goal was to identify priority areas of focus and specific initiatives that will increase Wake County visitation to 21.7 million by 2028.”

The DSP, which launched at the 2018 GRCVB Annual Meeting, identifies actions along three visitor channels (meetings and conventions, sporting events and leisure visitation) and is organized according to eight priorities.

DSP summary

Following the progress update from Denny, Loren J. Gold, executive vice president at GRCVB, moderated a panel of community thought leaders whose organizations are taking lead roles in at least one of the DSP priority areas for the next five years.

Panelists included:

  • The Honorable Jacques Gilbert, Mayor of Apex, addressed enhancements in his municipality specific to Destination Development and talked about the Sports priority, highlighting the nearly-completed Pleasant Park.
  • Janet Cowell, president & CEO of Dix Park Conservancy, discussed implementing the vision for the park specifically as it relates to the Key Attractors and Events priorities.
  • Andrea Jones, head of marketing at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, addressed Key Attractors and Events priorities as well and updated the audience on progress at the downtown museum’s new SECU DinoLab, of which staff are optimistic for a first-quarter 2024 opening.
  • Michael Haley, executive director of Wake County Economic Development, commented on how Quality of Place contributes to corporate recruitment and talent attraction, as well as ongoing synergies with tourism and traditional economic development strategies.

Much more information about the DSP report and its implementation (Destination 2028) can be found at

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Photos by David Kuhn