Wilmington business owners ready for tourists to return following Florence

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— September is usually a busy time for tourism along the coast, but this year Hurricane Florence changed that.

The Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors’ Bureau said Friday that businesses are finally opening up again, and owners are hopeful the tourists will soon come back.

Audrey Longtin, owner of the Workshop Coffee Shop in Wrightsville Beach, said her shop was closed for eight days following Florence.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can with what happened. The business is still pretty good with the locals. But you can see the hurricane just chased people away,” Longtin said.

For the 6,300 people who depend on tourism for their livelihood, officials say, it is critical that visitors return.

“Half of our attractions, if not more than that, are up and going – the aquarium, a lot of our smaller attractions are back up and running as well,” said Kim Hufham, CEO of the convention and visitors bureau. “The hotels, we’re seeing them coming back online daily. So, recovery efforts are going really well, and we’ve been really pleased with the way things have been reopening.”

Officials said there’s been one economic boost from the storm: Work crews have filled hotels, rental homes and restaurants and will likely be in the area for several weeks.