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WNC Business

A statewide destination marketing resource

Apr 02, 2024 04:29AM ● By Randee Brown

Operating as a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Visit NC is a tourism marketing organization that promotes destinations and attractions across the state. 

Visit NC’s 2022 North Carolina Regional Visitor Profile, which is based on data sourced from the OmniTrakGroup Inc. research company’s TravelTrakAmerica program, highlights visitation to different regions of the state and the impact visitors have on each region’s economy. The findings are published in June.

In 2022, the state ranked number six in the country for domestic visitation with 43 million person-trips. Approximately 11.5 million travelers visited the mountain region, with 75% of those being overnight trips. Summer and Fall were the most popular times of year for travelers, with 85% of visitors traveling for recreational purposes and 6% traveling for business. The average visitor party size was 2.5, spending an average of $822 during their visit.

Mountain visitors typically stayed in the area for three nights, and 54% of those stayed in a hotel or motel rather than other types of accommodations. The majority of mountain visitors, 88%, drove to the area from states including SC, GA, FL, TN, and VA.

The mountain region had the highest percentage of visitors participating in hiking/backpacking activities — 32% — compared to the coastal and Piedmont regions with only 7% and 6% (respectively) of visitors participating in those activities.

Tourism Economics prepared traveler spending estimates for NC and each of its counties for 2022. The Western and Northwest regions, which together include 25 counties, represented 22.1% of the state’s visitor spending, a regional total of $7,369,500,000. This revenue resulted in an average savings of $399.55 in state and local taxes per resident.

Visit NC primarily works with destination marketing organizations such as Explore Asheville as well as county partners. Website topics are focused on what data shows public interest is with a goal of anticipating what information will be of greatest use to potential visitors. As the organization is contracted with the Department of Commerce, Visit NC often works in areas in which tourism marketing will have the most meaning. 

Visit NC’s marketing content spans a variety of platforms including their website, newsletters, print marketing, television campaigns, YouTube, and social media. Target recipients are not demographic-based; rather, they are based on motivation for travel with a focus on people looking for discovery and enrichment. 

Geographic locations are a determining factor in targeted marketing as well. Being in a lucrative position on the East Coast that is easily accessed by multiple interstates, marketing different aspects to different regions can help maximize visitation.

While Visit NC typically highlights areas and destinations, specific businesses and events are also listed and included in editorial content at no charge. On the website and social media channels, sponsored content does have a fee associated with that boosted visibility. The staff team also looks for lesser-known spots to acknowledge through their own experience and conversations.

Tourism itself is a major economic driver of the region, but tourism also plays a role in overall economic development in all sectors. Several businesses have been created in or expanded to Western North Carolina starting with a visit to the area, leading to a variety of impactful projects which further drives the area’s economy.

Visit NC’s Executive Director Scott Peacock said as tourism continues to increase in popularity, the importance of destination management and stewardship also increases. The organization works to collect data to determine things like overcrowding, over-popularity of hiking trails, what percentage of their users are visitors versus locals, and how to appropriately manage messaging around that.

“Our goal is to provide awareness around these issues, and help local tourism offices facing these challenges maintain the assets that make these places so special,” Peacock said. “It must be balanced with the tax creation and job development tourism brings."

Working with local guides and outfitters, content including fliers and ‘Know Before You Go’ emails helps educate visitors on area concerns and how to interact with the area responsibly.

Tourism messaging is also intentional about dispersion, both in sharing prosperity with outlying areas as well as seasonality. 

“We share a lot of messaging focused on tourists staying in outlying areas like Waynesville or Maggie Valley, exploring there, and maybe coming into Asheville for the day,” Peacock said. “We are filming more ads in winter, and have increased funding to be more targeted in all four seasons. We want to do our part to help keep tourism responsible and sustainable.”

Businesses interested in marketing through Visit NC are encouraged to reach out to their local destination partners or a point of contact with their county’s chamber of commerce or tourism department. Contact information for these are listed on Interested businesses can also send emails via their Contact Us page on the website.

Photo Credit: Visit NC