Tourism spending is on rise
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on August 13, 2012 1:46 PM
Tourism numbers were up in every North Carolina county in 2011 as the state recorded an 8 percent increase in spending from 2010, according to data provided by the Department of Commerce's Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.
Spending in Wayne County was $138.58 million in 2011 -- 27th highest in the state -- up 9.55 percent from the previous year.
That growth was the 13th highest in the state as Wayne continued its trend of steady growth since 2005.
The area has seen an increase in tourism spending each year since then, except for a 3 percent decrease in 2009 Travel and Tourism Director Betsy Rosemann attributed to the recession.
Mrs. Rosemann said many functions keep the county's hotels full, especially since Air Force reservists come in monthly and fill up hotels on their own, usually 12,000 a year.
"The 916th always provides a tremendous amount of support," she said, adding that the members of the Air Force Reserve Wing have a direct, annual impact of $450,000 on the local economy.
Corporate clients, mostly in manufacturing, also play a big role in tourism spending, she said, as many visitors choose to stay in Wayne County while working in the surrounding five counties because of the greater variety of hotels and shopping.
Construction projects on the new Duke Energy plant as well as the new Cherry Hospital campus bolstered tourism spending, as well, she said.
The Wings Over Wayne Air Show, last held in 2011, fills up hotels just from performers, she said. The N.C. Pickle Festival in Mount Olive is also an annual tourism draw, but much of the increase can be attributed to sports events, which have increased weekend spending.
"Weekend business has really jumped up and that was always a challenge," she said, citing the Goldsboro Family YMCA which hosts about 26 swim meets a year. "That brings in multiple swim teams."
Baseball tournaments at the Eastern Carolina Athletic Park, which run from March through fall, also bring people into Wayne County, along with the county's tourism jewel: Busco Beach.
"Busco Beach in general contributes 1,500 to 3,000 riders a weekend," she said, adding that Memorial Day and Independence Day can bring anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 visitors to the recreational riding facility and man-made beach.
The American Motorcycle Association held a tournament in 2011 that brought in riders from across the country and the group will return Labor Day Weekend for the ATV Extreme Dirt Track National Championship -- an event Mrs. Rosemann said she thinks will continue to boost 2012 tourism spending, which she said is already outpacing numbers from last year.
Collegiate golf tournaments have been held at Lane Tree Golf Course and the Mount Olive College baseball team continues to host regionals in the county, so she hopes for an impressive 2012 and beyond, especially since the county is bidding on two national Professional Disc Golf Association tournaments and four U.S. Tennis Association tournaments.
"We're continuing our focus on sports," she said, noting that USTA officials are expected to visit at the end of the month to determine if the community is a good fit.
She also said the AMA seems happy with its home at Busco Beach, especially since it was named track of the year last year.
"That didn't hurt publicity," she said.
The hotels in the area are continuing to work with the Paramount Theatre on hotel packages and other events unique to Goldsboro like the Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni Weekend each May and monthly base tours at Seymour Johnson keep hotels in steady demand even during non-peak months.
"The base tours are going really well," she said. "We don't have any available until January."
Visiting families spend an average of $155 per day, she said, so she hopes new programs at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, the Wings Over Wayne Air Show in 2013, Pickle Festival and the growing Pig in the Park barbecue festival will continue to attract visitors to the area.
"We're very excited about the increase in travel and tourism spending and we'll do everything in our power to make it continue," she said.