Consultant: City needs rooms with a view

Published 5:35 am Tuesday, February 24, 2009

By Staff
Visitors desire waterfront lodging, study indicates
Contributing Editor
By far, visitors to Washington rate waterfront lodging at the top of their wish list when they visit our fair city.
That was a key component of a tourism study presented to the City Council on Monday. Those visitors also want more unusual and fine dining establishments in the waterfront/downtown area and for downtown to have a “lively village-style” atmosphere, the study also noted.
Council members indicated they will endorse the study and its recommendations at their next meeting, but leave implementation of the recommendations to the Washington Tourism Development Authority.
The city must take advantage of those blessings by investing in them, Randall said. The city’s travel-and-tourism assets can be an economic engine that helps drive the city’s economy, she added.
Randall encouraged the city to develop a strategic plan that protects and preserves the city’s assets in the downtown/waterfront area while simultaneously using those areas to generate economic development.
Providing visitors with amenities and doing even more to promote the city’s offerings should bring more visitors and their money to the city, Randall said. Waterfront lodging does not have to be right on the Pamlico River, she said. Visitors just want to see the water from wherever they stay, Randall said.
Each visitor to the city generates about $15 in sales tax-related revenues, of which about $4 comes to the city and the remaining $11 goes to Beaufort County, Randall noted. If a household in the city had to replace tax revenues generated by city visitors, the household would pay $395 a year, Randall said.
With the county deriving financial benefit from tourists who visit the city, it would make sense for the county and city to jointly build a visitors center, Randall said.
Randall strongly recommended that an interactive visitors center be located somewhere along U.S. Highway 17 in the city. That’s because about 18,000 cars pass through Washington each day on that highway, she said. U.S. 17 is a major north-south scenic corridor used by many people, she said.
The study includes information obtained from interviews with 101 people, the majority of whom rate the waterfront as one of the city’s main attractions, Randall said.
The study shows many visitors complained about the absence of waterfront lodging, limited upscale, modern lodging establishments and limited waterfront-dining opportunities.
A waterfront inn with about 40 rooms and facilities to handle wedding receptions, family reunions and small business-type conferences would help bring more visitors to the city, Randall said.
After reviewing the study, Councilman Doug Mercer said he determined the city’s No. 1 strategy for improving tourism should be providing “distinct gateways” into Washington. The city must work on making entrances to the city more attractive so they draw more visitors to the city, he said.
Cutline for corresponding photo: Tourism consultant Judy Randall presents a report on Washington’s tourism market before the Washington City Council on Monday. (WDN Photo/Paul Dunn)