A reason to celebrate

Published 10:11 pm Saturday, May 10, 2008

By Staff
Today marks the beginning of National Tourism Week, which will be celebrated in Washington through May 18.
Washington should celebrate National Tourism Week. After all, tourism is a key part of the state’s economy, Beaufort County’s economy and Washington’s economy.
During National Tourism Week, the Washington Visitor Center will host daily open houses for residents and visitors. Guests will be served cookies and other goodies as they receive information about the city and surrounding areas. Door prizes will be given away. The center is located at 138 S. Market St.
Just how important is tourism to the area?
According to information released by the North Carolina Division of Tourism, visitors to the state spent more than $16.5 billion in 2007. Tourism in Beaufort County generated an economic impact of $61.74 million in 2006, a 6.3 percent increase over 2005, according to a statewide study.
That $61.74 million placed Beaufort County 47th in travel impact among the state’s 100 counties in 2006. In 2005, the county ranked 46th. In 2006, for the fifth year in a row, the county’s tourism-related revenues exceeded the $50 million mark. Since 1990, the county’s tourism revenue has nearly doubled. Those revenues were reported at $26.64 million in 1990.
Last year, when discussing the impact of tourism on Washington, City Manager James C. Smith said increasing tourist traffic to the area results in short-term benefits and long-term benefits to the county and its municipalities. The short-term benefits include visitors spending money at local businesses, restaurants and lodging establishments, he said. Long-term benefits include visitors buying second homes in the area as a result of their having good experiences during visits as tourists, Smith said.
State and local tax revenues from travel to Beaufort County amounted to $7.04 million in 2006, according to information provided by the state. This represents a $151.83 tax savings to each county resident.
About three-and-a-half years ago, the Washington Tourism Development Authority began a multi-faceted approach to tourism development.
Eye Integrated Communications, the WTDA’s marketing consultant, developed a marketing plan that outlines ways to increase hotel-room sales and traffic through the city’s Visitors Center.
The marketing strategy focuses on five target audiences — the historic traveler, the “history buff;” arts and culture, the “culturalist;” shopping and dining, the “day tripper;” waterway travelers, the “Intracoastal Waterway boater;” and ecotourism, the “ecotourist.”
As a result of that plan, Washington positions itself as “the hub for experiencing the Inner Banks of North Carolina.”
It’s evident the strategy is working. When the economic impact of tourism-related revenue in Beaufort County increases 6.3 percent from 2005 to 2006, that’s proof the city’s investment in tourism-development efforts is paying off.
It’s also reason enough to celebrate National Tourism Week. Stop by the Visitors Center and have a cookie or two on the city.