01/20/08 — Duplin County Tourism Authority strategic plan

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Duplin County Tourism Authority strategic plan

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 20, 2008 12:29 PM

Hoping to give a direction to the interest and energy created after the Duplin County Tourism Development Authority was formed late last summer, the agency released its new three-year strategic plan this week.

Topping its list of goals is the eventual construction of a county visitor center somewhere along the I-40 corridor, which features exits for Warsaw, N.C. 24, Kenansville/Magnolia and Wallace/Rose Hill.

"It hits some of our largest areas and some our heaviest tourism areas," county tourism director Rob Wells said. "It's where the majority of our travelers enter the county."

But he acknowledged that such a center is likely a few years down the road.

In the meantime, the authority is actively working to improve signage for its attractions going into and throughout the county. And on Friday, it began printing new county maps showing people where those sites are located.

The goal, Wells explained, is to let people know where things are -- something identified in an earlier market analysis as a long-standing need.

Along those same lines the authority has already begun pushing, and will continue to push, local attractions to work together to make themselves more visible through networking opportunities, free listing services, state publications, the Internet and other advertising methods.

Officials are also working to put together comprehensive travel packages for tourists interested in coming into Duplin County, where they have opportunities in agri-tourism, historical sites, heritage tourism, events and festivals and culinary resources, Wells said.

Among the county's biggest draws are Liberty Hall in Kenansville, Tarkil Branch in Cedar Fork, the Duplin and Country Squire wineries and in the fall, the Muscadine Festival, he said.

He also expects that once the current renovations at the Duplin Events Center are complete and it's able to start booking more and larger shows, that it will become one of the county's premier draws.

But to truly make Duplin County a tourist destination, he admitted, more hotel rooms will be needed. Currently there are only 365.

"For us, right now, we have certain events that we lose positive economic impact on because of the lack of rooms," Wells said.

And so that's something that he wants to work with the county's new economic development arm on. But, he explained, it's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation -- which comes first, people or hotels.

"They're tied together," he said.

Still, with their new marketing campaign "Uncork Duplin County," their coming Web site www.uncorkduplin.com, and their new strategic plan, he thinks Duplin tourism is headed in the right direction.

"Our numbers continue to improve, especially the last three years, and we've had a lot of repeat visitors," Wells said. "We think we're on the right track. We're excited about where we're at, and we're excited about some these new ventures.

"Uncork Duplin County. Come find us. We're here."