ATLANTIC BEACH, CARTERET COUNTY -

As the tourism season draws to a close, business owners along the Crystal Coast reported a better-than-average season.

Tourism increased 4% from last year, according to Carol Lohr, director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority. Lohr said the increase is likely because of a strengthened economy, but said the area also likely got a boost from the new DoubleTree by Hilton. The hotel, which was formerly owned by Sheraton, closed in 2011 after sustaining damage from Hurricane Irene. It reopened as a DoubleTree in June. Bowen said the hotel was booked to capacity for Labor Day weekend.

“It's been a sensational summer for us,” Tom Bowen, the hotel’s general manager, said. “We've been busy at all times, and I think the crowning achievement was this past weekend.”

Other business owners are also reporting good business for the weekend. Randy Hingson, owner of White Swan Restaurant and Catering, said his restaurant was full.

“I think people are easing up and feeling better,” Hingson said about the economy.

Hingson expects business to slow in the next few weeks, and said he will likely cut business hours by October.