ELIZABETHTOWN — Visitors to and within Bladen County spent nearly $39 million in 2016, according to a recent report.
Last month, Visit North Carolina released a report prepared by the U.S. Travel Association called The Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties that highlighted tourist dollars across the state. Bladen County saw an increase of 1.7 percent over last year’s $37.99 million.
“Tourism is vital to every community, as it promotes growth within the community,” said Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dawn Maynard. “Funds from tourism help support the businesses in the community and therefore is vital to the success of the economic growth of both businesses and the community.”
On the state level, tourists to Bladen County produced $3.8 million in state sales and excise tax and personal and corporate income.
The benefits are seen locally as well. Tourists generated $4.16 million in payroll and were responsible last year for employing 190 county residents. Their presence meant $1.11 million in local sales and property tax revenue from travel-related businesses and industries. When broken down by population, that $1.11 million means tourists to the area save residents $99.62 per person per year in taxes, a number that continues to rise. The average tax savings increased 2.2 percent over last year and has seen a rise of 16.26 percent over the last six years.
“I think the rise in tourism in Bladen County comes from the recent marketing of both vineyards in our county,” Maynard commented. “Both Lu Mil Vineyard and Cape Fear Vineyard do an excellent job promoting their venues across the state … I also think promoting White Lake as an affordable vacation destination increases the visitors annually, especially during peak tourism season.”
Maynard also cited the Summer Sounds Concert Series, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and athletic competitions at White Lake and Browns Creek Nature and Bike Trail as being pivotal to attracting people to the region.
Statewide, North Carolina is seeing the same results. Visit North Carolina releases state-wide numbers in the spring, and in May, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that tourists spent a record-setting $22.9 billion last year in the Tar Heel State, or $62 million per day. The numbers reflect a 4.4 percent increase over last year. Of the 100 counties, 96 saw direct tourism employment growth from 2015 to 2016, and the tourism and travel industries employ more than 211,000 residents across the state.
“All eight economic development regions of the state had spending growth of 3 percent or more and 96 percent of the state’s counties saw direct tourism employment growth from 2015 to 2016,” said Wit Tuttell, who serves as executive director of Visit North Carolina. “Tourism continues to be a major driver of economic development across North Carolina, which is the sixth most visited state in the country.”
According to the fall report, of North Carolina’s 100 counties, Bladen ranked 67th in terms of tourism dollars.
“I think if we had public access to White Lake, we would see more visitors during the off season,” Maynard remarked. “The lake is especially beautiful during the fall, and I receive phone calls from tourists looking for access to the lake. Thankfully, a few of the accommodations are open annually, and I can refer inquiries to those businesses. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the lake for our day visitors during the off season.”
Camden County saw the least amount of money — $1.97 million — and Mecklenburg County realized the most, at $5.03 billion. Regionally, Robeson County saw $137.88 million, Cumberland County generated $504.19 million, tourists spent $48.29 million in Sampson County, and Columbus County received $52.49 million in 2016.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.