07/29/07 — Tourism becoming more important to Wayne economy

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Tourism becoming more important to Wayne economy

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 29, 2007 2:01 AM

The impact of tourism as an economic engine in Wayne County still lags behind the contributions of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and agriculture, but over the last decade it has been growing steadily.

According to numbers released last week by the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, domestic tourism generated an economic impact of $108.64 million in Wayne County in 2006 -- up 6.7 percent from 2005. Across the state, tourism generated $15.8 billion.

In 1996, tourism dollars in Wayne County amounted to $74.7 million.

In terms of direct impact on county residents last year, tourism accounted for approximately 1,000 jobs and $15.84 million in payroll.

It also accounted for $8.38 million in local and state tax revenue.

Betsy Rosemann, director of Goldsboro-Wayne County Travel and Tourism, explained that tourism's impact is felt most prominently on those businesses in the hospitality industry -- hotels, restaurants and gas stations.

She explained that the $108 million figure only takes into account the direct and indirect contributions of the tourists and those businesses. It does not consider residual impacts, such as how employees might then go and spend their salaries.

She attributed the almost $7 million increase in economic impact to the simple fact that more people are visiting and staying in Goldsboro.

"We're noticing a bigger trend in (hotel) occupancy. A lot more people traveled to the area than in 2005," she said.

Contributing to those increases are a large number of family reunions, particularly in the summer, as well as premier events like the Black Heritage Swim Meet, which was held in Goldsboro for the first time in 2006.

The biggest single event was the Wings Over Wayne Air Show, which drew more than 70,000 people.

But Mrs. Roseman explained that it's not just the big ticket events bringing people into town. They've also been working hard to make and Wayne County's names known.

"We've been doing a tremendous amount of advertising," she said.

Half of the city's $500,000 annual hotel occupancy tax revenues go to promote Goldsboro and Wayne County and their attractions.

"It's a minimal investment for a big return, and that investment isn't coming from the local taxpayer," Mrs. Roseman said.

Of Wayne County's other economic drivers, Seymour Johnson accounted for an approximate $460 million impact, and county Cooperative Extension Director Howard Scott said, judging by the last study ($600 million in 2000) agriculture and agribusiness likely had "close to a billion dollar" impact.