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How to grow NC tourism? Social media, of course


Schools gets state tourism post; looks forward to good year ahead

RALEIGH — Emerald Isle Mayor Art Schools doesn’t plan to use his latest government position to directly promote the Crystal Coast, but hopes that he will still be able to draw tourists to the area by association.

Gov. Pat McCrory recently appointed Mr. Schools to the N.C. Travel and Tourism Board.  This advisory board has no solid authority to make decisions at the state level, but rather will help give input on different tourism campaigns that will be used to draw people to North Carolina as a whole.

Mr. Schools believes it will be a good year for tourism along the Crystal Coast and throughout the entire state. He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to serve in this capacity on the travel and tourism board.

Mr. Schools previously served as chairman of the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority for six years and now serves in an ex officio capacity. He is also the current president of the N.C. League of Municipalities.

He applied for the travel and tourism board because he has that expertise and said he feels it is a vital contribution to the county and state.

“I think tourism is not only important to economy from a tourism standpoint, but also is important to our citizens,” Mr. Schools said.

He stressed that being on the board is not to “serve his own agenda” of bringing people just to the Crystal Coast, but to the state as a whole. He said it is a positive thing for citizens here to be involved on government boards at a state level. “I just think it’s good for people in Carteret County to serve on boards in Raleigh, for one reason, to remind people that we are here.”

Carol Lohr, director of the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority, is pleased to hear of Mr. Schools’ recent appointment at the state level.

“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for the Crystal Coast to have Art serve on that board,” she said.

She said this advisory committee is essentially a “sounding board” for the state tourism authority on what marketing campaigns to use.

Both Ms. Lohr and Mr. Schools believe tourism in Carteret County will be strong this year. They have heard from rental companies in the county that there seems to be increased vacation bookings in advance this year.

The two also agreed the reopening of the former Sheraton Hotel in Atlantic Beach this June will be wonderful for the economy and tourism efforts. The former Sheraton closed in late 2011 following damage received from Hurricane Irene. It is slated to open as a Double Tree hotel on June 1 and is expected to bring in vacationers and conferences alike.

Ms. Lohr said the TDA is thrilled for the grand reopening in about two months.  She said it should be a “first-class operation,” that will host as number of visitors.

When the original Sheraton closed, the county lost 91 events that were supposed to be hosted there. It also had a negative impact on area businesses that thrived from the constant stream of visitors staying there before.

The TDA has increased online marketing this year, said Ms. Lohr, and is getting ready for a last-minute push in April to kick start the tourist season. The early Easter this year is encouraging, she said. Despite the chilly weather, it is better than many other states, so she said she feels that could be a draw for many people seeking an escape from the snow.

Marketing is concentrated on the “target audiences,” which include North Carolina as the biggest draw of tourists, followed by Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and New Jersey, said Ms. Lohr.

 

Contact Anna Harvey at 252-726-7081,ext. 227; email anna@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @annaccnt.

State Tourism Conference focuses on legislative impact

By: Katie Rufener

 

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WILMINGTON — The North Carolina Governor's Conference on Tourism continued at the Wilmington Convention Center Monday, with discussions on how legislative decisions impact the state's tourism industry.

Every year the Tar Heel state draws vacationers from around the world. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker shared what she feels travel and tourist professionals need to do to continue to bring vacationers to our state.

"We have so much to offer. If you're a mountain person, if you're a river person, if you're an ocean person, if you're a golf person, we have some of everything. So, there's no reason why somebody should come to North Carolina and be disappointed," said Decker.

More than 500 travel and tourist professionals from across the state gathered for the conference. For those representing smaller towns, like Lynn Lewis with Little Washington Tourism, it was a chance to learn from the more popularized destinations.

"In my case, I'm from a small, rural community, and it's great to be able to come and interact with the leaders from the larger areas,” said Lewis.

But tourism, in any community, depends largely on support from the state legislature. And that is where Decker said action needs to be taken, whether it's maintaining our state's beaches or safeguarding our film incentives.

"North Carolina is a very attractive place, naturally, for filming, but we need to make it competitive economically, and so I think the credits are very important to sustain,” said Decker.

Decker believes the right type of legislation can even turn vacationers into residents.

"We're working very hard to work on tax reform It's very important for us to make North Carolina more and more competitive, not only to do business here, but to live here,” said Decker.

And with tourism bringing billions of dollars to the state every year, Lewis said support from our state's leaders is crucial.

"It's just a wonderful thing that our leaders from the state are recognizing that tourism is economic development,” said Lewis.

The tourism industry employs 200,000 people throughout the state.