Tourism dollars up: Spending by visitors to Beaufort County increases 6.6 percent

Published 1:19 am Sunday, August 16, 2015


FILE PHOTO | DAILY NEWS MAGNETIC: Washington’s waterfront is among the area’s top draws when it comes to attracting people to the city and Beaufort County.

MAGNETIC: Washington’s waterfront is among the area’s top draws when it comes to attracting people to the city and Beaufort County.

Visitor spending in Beaufort County increased by 6.6 percent from 2013 to 2014, one of the biggest increases among the state’s 100 counties, according to a study.

From 2013 to 2014, visitor spending in Beaufort County rose from $70.99 million to $75.68 million, according to the study. The largest increase in visitor spending from 2013 to 2014 was seen in Orange County, with a 7.7 percent rise. Beaufort County is eighth on the list of the top 10 counties that experienced increases in visitor spending. Wake County was at the bottom of the list with a 6.5 percent increase.

The study, performed annually, was prepared for the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development by the U.S. Travel Association. The study is known as The Economic Impact of Travel On North Carolina Counties.

Lynn Wingate, Washington’s tourism development director, attributes the increase to several factors.

“First of all, from a national perspective, AAA during every holiday period does an estimation — travel predictor — and travel nationwide was up. So that was a real positive sign for everybody in our industry. I think one of our big things locally in Beaufort County is we have several destination communities. It’s not just one attraction or one event. We have a lot to offer visitors,” she said.

Not only were more people visiting the county, but inquiries about Washington and the rest of the county during 2014 were up 14 percent when compared to Internet inquiries in 2013, Wingate said. “So, were we seeing an increase in the number of people gathering information about our community and then actually converting and coming to our community. So, that was a real big plus,” Wingate said.

The increase in visitors and their spending translates into an increase in revenues generated for the city by its occupancy tax, she noted. “We up by 10 or 12 percent for 2014, for the calendar year,” Wingate said.

Another factor behind the increase is increased publicity for Washington and Beaufort County in travel-related media, she noted, including a contest to pick the top “coolest small towns in America.”

“We had growing recognition from publications like Budget Travel magazine. That competition started in 2014 to try and name us as one of the top 10 coolest … small towns. … So, we certainly saw an increase in awareness (of Washington) there,” Wingate said.

In that contest, Washington came in at the No. 5 spot on the top 10 list.

Asked if the increase is directly related to the Washington Tourism Development Authority’s efforts to market Washington and its surrounding environs, Wingate emphatically responded: “Yes. I believe so.”

Wingate said she is impressed by the fact that small, rural Beaufort County is among the top counties — including Wake County and its state capitol of Raleigh and coastal counties Carteret and Dare with their beaches — that experienced increases in their visitor spending from 2013 to 2014. “It certainly speaks volumes about the type of communities we have in our county and the name recognition — people are starting to know about our communities, and, as I said, we have several destination communities in Beaufort County,” Wingate said.

The increase in visitors and their spending affects the local economy.

In 2014, the county ranked 48th in travel impact among the state’s 100 counties. In 2013, the county ranked 48th. It ranked 47th in 2012.

In 2014, about 440 jobs in Beaufort County were directly attributable to travel and tourism, according to the data. Travel generated an $9.66 million payroll in 2014, up from an $8.97 million payroll in 2013.

In 2014, state and local sales-tax revenues generated by travel and tourism in Beaufort County amounted to $8.1 million, which represents a $160.49 tax savings to each county resident, according to the study. Local and state taxes generated by travel in Beaufort County came to $7.59 million in 2012, representing a tax savings of $170.10 for each county resident, according to the 2014 data.

Beaufort County’s largest tourism spending increase from one year to the next year came in 2005, when the economic impact of domestic tourism jumped 11.97 percent over that impact in 2004.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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