05/13/05 — Civil War tourists could bring dollars to Wayne

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Civil War tourists could bring dollars to Wayne

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 13, 2005 2:28 PM

Visitors spend nearly $100 million a year in Wayne County, but new attractions could lure even more money to the county, the state's top tourism official said Thursday.

If this area were to promote its Civil War history, cultural and natural resources and Air Force ties, Goldsboro could become a travel destination, even for international visitors, said Lynn Minges, the executive director of N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports.

"They want to see the real Amer-ica, and I can't think of anywhere better to do that than Wayne County," she said.

Mrs. Minges spoke at the 2005 Tourism Day Celebration, sponsored by the Goldsboro Travel and Tourism Advisory Council to mark National Tourism Week. About 60 people attended the luncheon meeting at the Goldsboro Country Club.

Tourism is one of the state's largest industries and is growing, Mrs. Minges said. Last year, the state had 49 million visitors who spent $13.2 billion, up 4.5 percent from 2003.

Local and state tax revenues from tourism topped $1.1 billion last year.

More than 200,000 jobs in North Carolina directly support the travel industry and another 200,000 have indirect ties, she said.

But nearly everybody benefits from travel dollars, she said. Hotels, restaurants and gas stations might be the primary beneficiaries, but hotels then need new carpet, restaurants buy food.

"When tourism does well, dry cleaners do well," she said. "Every day, visitors spend $33 million in North Carolina, and then they go away. We don't have to educate their kids. We don't have to take care of them."

Wayne County could get a bigger slice of the tourism pie, she and other officials said.

Steve Hicks, president of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, said the county benefits from being along a major east-west highway, U.S. 70, and being centrally located in eastern North Carolina.

"But we just are not a destination market," he said. Wayne County could become one by developing cultural, heritage and agricultural attractions, he added.

Betsy Rosemann, director of sales for Hampton Inn, added that nearly 60 percent of her hotel's business is from business travelers. There's untapped potential for attracting tourists, she said. Meeting facilities are a major need.

This area is also benefiting from a recent increase in baseball tournaments, she said. Those weekend events bring a lot of families here for weekends. Working to attract more tournaments is a way Wayne County could increase its tourism income, she added.

Mrs. Minges said one of the hottest travel trends is Civil War tourism. She noted Wayne County has four locations on the state's new Civil War Trail, which are already attracting tour groups, Mrs. Rosemann said.

Stacy Tomas, who specializes in sustainable tourism extension specialist with North Carolina State University, said that people are also looking for more out of their vacation time. They want leisure and learning in one package, "more bang for their buck," she said.

Much of the U.S. has become "Generica," said Chris Cavanaugh of the Magellan Strategy Group. Wherever you go, you see the same chain stores and restaurants.

If an area wants to attract travelers, it needs to promote what's different or unique, he added. "You can have the chains, but there also has to be a balance."

For more information on N.C. attractions, go to www.visitnc.com or call 1-800-VISITNC.Tourism director