With positive tourism trends in Haywood, DWA looks ahead to cultivate new visitors
Positive growth, successful promotions and marketing strategies were a focus of the Downtown Waynesville Association's annual meeting, held Tuesday, Sept. 17, at The Strand at 38 Main.
The Downtown Waynesville Association, or DWA, is a nonprofit public-private corporation with a 2013 operating budget of $206,850. Funding comes from Municipal Service District (MSD) tax revenue, annual promotions program fees, town contributions, grants and tax reimbursements.
The DWA exists to promote revitalization activities downtown and within the MSD. Since 1986, when Waynesville was accepted as an official Main Street City and the DWA became an accredited member of the National and North Carolina Main Street Programs, vacancy rates in the MSD have declined from 23 percent to an average of less than 2 percent per year, according to the 2013 annual report.
"Downtown is where we celebrate," said Buffy Phillips, DWA's executive director. "It's where we make our memories."
The association is completing its first year of "Kids on Main," a program that seeks to attract young families by providing children's activities one hour prior to block parties and the town's 4th of July celebration. The most recent block party and Kids on Main event was held over Labor Day weekend and included 16 participating businesses in the Main Street area.
In addition to the Kids on Main program, DWA secured funding through the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority to refurbish two kiosks on Main Street, a project that was completed this year.
The featured speaker at the meeting was Steve Morse, an economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism program within the College of Business at Western Carolina University. Morse presented the latest statistics about tourism trends in Haywood County, including downtown Waynesville.
According to Morse's presentation, which sourced the N.C. Division of Tourism, ten-year trends of tourist spending in Haywood County show that $126.3 million was spent in 2012, a figure that increased from $120.4 million in 2011. These numbers place Haywood County roughly in the middle of tourist spending rankings for Western North Carolina counties — in dollar amounts, Haywood sits between Henderson and Transylvania, counties with tourist spending amounts of $218.4 million and $80.9 million, respectively.
Even with promising statistics and positive growth, the DWA cannot sit still. Morse urged the association to begin thinking about how to reach Generation Y, or those who came of age during the Millennium. Morse said that the next generation of creative class workers and entrepreneurs are attracted to locations that offer things like music, arts, history and heritage, shopping, agri-tourism, food and sports and recreation.
"You have all of these in Haywood," Morse said. "It's a matter of cultivating new customers and keeping them."
As fall sets in, next month will likely prove to be big for Haywood County, as taxable sales peak in October and June, according to the N.C. Department of Revenue.