North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue proclaimed May 16 as Tourism Day in North Carolina. Travel and tourism were touted as a major industry, vital to the economic stability and growth of the state.
For the first time, tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1 billion in 2011 and have increased more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.
“Tourism means jobs in North Carolina,” said Perdue. “Our beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, small towns and vibrant cities made North Carolina a desirable destination for more than 37 million visitors last year. Those domestic travelers to our state spent a record $18 billion across all 100 counties, and that spending directly supports nearly 200,000 jobs for state residents.”
Richmond County has been working diligently to become part of this boom in NC tourism. The Richmond County Tourism Development Authority works closely with Walker Marketing to promote the area on a national, regional and local scale. There have been reports that the targeted marketing, promoting motorsports, outdoors, agritourism and historic categories, is working.
“Richmond County was heavily promoted during the run up to NASCAR’s return to Rockingham Speedway in April,” said Walker Marketing Account Manager Jeffrey Cheatham. “The official attendance for the race was 27,500 fans. One month later, the heavily promoted Carolina Rebellion music festival attracted an additional 30,000 visitors to the county. A previous economic impact study, based solely on NASCAR’s return, predicted an increase of 234 jobs and $10.5 million in spending for Richmond County.”
There have been other clear indicators that marketing the county is having an impact.
When Carolina Country Magazine featured Richmond County in its March 2011 “Daytrip” column, the Chamber of Commerce reported an increase in calls from potential visitors and requests for copies of the Richmond County Focus Area Guide.
When UNC-TV featured the “Hamlet: Train Town” segment on the “North Carolina Weekend” program, the Hamlet Historic Depot and Museum reported an increase of about 300 extra visitors over the next six weeks. Many of the visitors reported that they had seen the segment.
“Visitors are still trickling in,” said Jeanne Newton, who sits on the board of the museum. “Also, Scott Mason, the ‘Tarheel Traveler’ did a feature story on the Hamlet Historic Depot and Museum which aired initially on January 17, 2012. Over the course of the following six weeks, our visits increased by at least 100 and, again, they are still trickling in.”
“Thankfully, now that the City of Hamlet has brought on Miranda Chavis as their downtown coordinator and museum manager/curator, we’ll be able to track tourism through Hamlet’s New Visitor Center,” Newton said.
With Facebook and Pinterest pages, the county is also ramping up its social media efforts and seeing some impressive responses.
“Richmond County’s social media activity ranks second in the area, when compared to all surrounding counties,” said Cheatham.
The increased interest in the county has led to additional marketing programs, like discounted coupon books and travel packages that are offered online at visitrichmondcounty.com.
“The programs have been successful because the combined efforts of continuous media outreach and marketing/event programs are designed to work in conjunction with one another,” said Cheatham. “The efforts have also been successful because the county has been able to take advantage of some key opportunities to showcase a wider snapshot of Richmond County as a whole.”
In 2011 total visitor volume to North Carolina was 37.2 million, up 1 percent from 2010. North Carolina is the 6th most visited state in the U.S. for overnight visitors.
The county has been working hard to get some of those visitors to stop by for day and overnight trips.
“We’ve increased marketing, and have put a lot of effort into increasing tourism in the county,” said County Manager and Chair of the Richmond County Tourism Board Rick Sago. “We think it’s paying off.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.