Tourism spending passes $81 million mark, according to study

Published 8:42 pm Monday, August 21, 2017

Domestic visitor spending in Beaufort County increased from $77.71 million in fiscal year 2015 to $81.29 million in fiscal year 2016, a 4.6-percent increase, according to a study.

Statewide, domestic visitor spending totaled $22.9 billion in fiscal year 2016, up $1 billion over the previous fiscal year, according to the study.

The tourism-related information comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data, employment figures and other industry and economic data to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina.

Each of the state’s 100 counties experienced increases in domestic visitor spending from FY 2015 to FY 2016, with the increases ranging from 13.7 percent in Cherokee County to .01 percent in Bertie and Warren counties.

“I think these figures show that tourism is a vital piece of our rural economy.  Each of our communities has something special and unique to offer. No other county in eastern North Carolina, which I can think of, has the variety of assets that we have in Beaufort County,” according to Lynn Wingate Davis, Washington’s tourism development director. “Destination restaurants like Spoon River, Historic Bath State Historic Site, Aurora Fossil Museum, the North Carolina Estuarium, Turnage Theatre, galleries and, of course, the Pamlico River and (Intracoastal Waterway).”

Davis added: “In 2016, the Underground Railroad Museum opened up, our festivals all attracted large numbers and the economy had people feeling more comfortable about traveling. Our local attractions all had more than 15,000 visitors in 2016.”

Travel generated a $10.9 million payroll in fiscal year 2016, up from $10.34 million payroll in the previous fiscal year, a 5.5-percent increase.

In fiscal year 2016, about 470 jobs in Beaufort County were directly attributable to travel and tourism, according to the data, 10 more jobs than the previous year.

During fiscal year 2016, state and local sales-tax revenues generated by travel and tourism in Beaufort County amounted to $8.95 million, which represents a $187.15 tax savings to each county resident, according to the study. Those tax receipts, $4.17 million for the state and $4.78 million locally, represent about a 5-percent increase over the previous fiscal year’s receipts.

“Tourism is economic development. Every dollar spent by visitors saves local residents money. The 2016 figures indicate there was a tax savings to each local resident of $187,” Davis noted.

In fiscal year 2016, the county ranked 48th in travel impact among the state’s 100 counties, the same ranking it had for the previous fiscal year.

“The Washington Tourism Development Authority began a more focused marketing approach in 2016. From that we saw an increase in editorial coverage in publications and in blogs. That attention to Washington has been evident by our increased visitation,” according to Davis.

In recent years, some people have questioned the study’s data for Beaufort County, saying the reported domestic visitor spending amounts seems inflated and unrealistic.

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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