EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Hotels, motels and inns along the Crystal Coast are seeing a different crowd than last year.
“Business levels just took off, we have from a county perspective, the Crystal Coast has been up 40% since last June,” said Jim Browder, the executive director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority.
Browder said he believes due to the status of the coronavirus pandemic, people are visiting to enjoy the outdoor amenities and, of course, the beach. While that’s always a good thing, it is presenting a problem for some businesses who can’t find the right number of employees to keep up with the demand.
“Its very nice to see hundreds of people down on the beach and everyone was at a safe distance having a good time,” Browder said.
If you aren’t a local, you might find it hard to find a place to spend the night.
“Hospitality business has been hurt really bad,” said Jerry Patel, owner of the Lighthouse Inn in Emerald Isle.
Patel and his wife say business has been much better than a year ago but they are experiencing a different problem in meeting the demand from those who are visiting. Simply put, finding people to fill the worker positions has been tough.
“The labor shortages and the governmental policies are hurting the business owners,” Patel said.
Patel said the influx of visitors happened fast, and keeping up with help is where they are struggling.
“It came in out of nowhere, again we welcomed that, especially with the more rooms we sell it’s better for the community in general,” Patel said.
This past weekend, it didn’t work out they way they had planned. Due to the shortage of workers, the Patels had to close five rooms. For their smaller property, that’s a lot. Alone, he said it lost them over $1,000.
Patel said what upsets him is he can’t experience his daughter’s last spring break before college.
“Now everything seems to be going properly … unemployment, people are seeing if I can get paid to stay home, why would I go out and work? Patel said.
The Patels are not the only ones. There are a number of business owners in the area who have said previously they are experiencing the same problem.