New tourism push features local music, food, culture
At a kick-off event for National Tourism Week Tuesday, those in the business of making visitors feel welcome got a sneak preview of this year's promotional efforts in the county.
Alice Aumen, chairwoman of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, welcomed a group of 60 or so saying the mission of those in tourism is to help visitors have fun.
“When we have a meeting, we make sure we have fun, too,” she said.
With that, she introduced the county’s tourism director, Lynn Collins, who showed a video that will be available on the organization’s YouTube channel and Facebook page as well embedded in press releases sent out by the agency.
Tourism is on the rebound in Haywood, as evidenced by the March occupancy tax numbers showing there are 29 percent more visitors during this month than there were one year ago, Collins said.
Tourist numbers are gauged by the amount of tax collected by accommodation owners in the county, (4 percent of the room rental fee) which is remitted to the county finance office and then provided to the TDA for tourism promotion.
The value of tourism in Haywood is something that can be economically measures. Quoting statistics from the N.C. Department of Commerce, Collins said, noting the state and local tax revenues generated from travel to Haywood County amounted to $11.35 million for 2011.
"This represents a $192.85 tax savings to each county resident based on census numbers," she said, noting the formula is tax revenue divided by number of Haywood County residents.
Collins said the board reassessed its promotion efforts, and concluded it was impossible to be all things to all people.
“We decided to narrow our focus,” she said, introducing the new campaign “Homegrown in Haywood.”
The effort is the result of two years of research, as well as feedback from visitors, Collins said, and emphasizes local scenery, attractions, history, food and music.
Angie Chandler, executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, which was designated by Congress in 2003, spoke of a partnership with the N.C. Arts Council and the counties in the region to promote arts and cultural experiences for visitors.
“We are here to support the marketing efforts of what people want to see and experience when they travel,” she said. “They want to experience the authentic life of the region.”
Part of that experience in Haywood will be exploring the Blue Ridge Music Trail where two specific locations are included in the 29-county guide book, which is for sale at the TDA visitor centers.
Chandler cited a study of 26 traditional music events or festivals that created an economic impact of $20.7 million. Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina Guidebook identifies 160 established music venues — including festivals — in the region that could generate an estimated $4,000 for every 100 visitors as the result of the new initiative focused on traditional music in the region.
The heavy hors d’ oeuvres included samplings of local foods such as smoked trout from Sunburst Trout in Cruso, greens from Jolly Farms in Canton, jams and relishes from Copper Pot and Wooden Spoon in Waynesville and Fines Creek Fine Foods in Fines Creek and both pate´and maple sugar braised short ribs from Sunburst Beef in Bethel.
The event was held at the Waynesville Country Club.