Tourism numbers see improvement
Cooperation between local agencies is chief among reasons for a $5 million increase in visitor spending in Davidson County, according to Mark Scott and Robin Bivens.
Scott, director of Thomasville Tourism, and Bivens, Lexington Tourism Authority director, were pleased the county reeled in $136 million for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, a 3.9 percent increase from the prior year.
Guilford County ranked third in the state with $1.2 billion in tourism revenues. Davidson County ranked 29th and Randolph County 34th with $120 million.
The figures were released by the N.C. Department of Commerce's Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.
"A couple of things have happened," Scott offered. "Days Inn has upgraded to a Comfort Inn and Suites, a much nicer hotel than it was. These were six- or seven-figure renovations that people have the confidence to do because of what's going on in town."
According to Scott, Thomasville's designation as an All-America City by the National Civic League was this year's crowning moment for revitalization that has been several years in the making. Hotel lodging, restaurant receipts and numbers from sporting events were several key indicators Scott looked at to gauge Thomasville's growth.
The success, he says, is a product of strong corporate partners, like the High Point-Thomasville HiToms, Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center and Winding Creek Golf Course. Finch Field, home of the HiToms, has undergone renovations of its own recently, something Scott said would not have happened without the HiToms.
"Some people may say they don't look at that [All-America City designation], but businesses do look at that," Scott said. "They see we have cooperation, and the things we did to earn us that honor were already in place before the award was given. When they see a vibrant and active community in place, they see we're a community sticking together trying to do some things, people are promoting the area."
Bivens agrees. Between Thomasville Tourism, Lexington Tourism and the Davidson County Tourism Recreation Investment Partnership, TRIP, she believes the three institutions responsible for overseeing the county's tourism have a lot to work with.
Davidson County leaders count on Richard Childress Racing, Childress Vineyards, The Bob Timberlake Gallery, High Rock Lake and many other businesses, events and attractions, including the annual barbecue festival, to bring in visitors. Tourism advocates also encourage travelers along Interstate 85 or U.S. 52 to stop.
The travel and tourism industry employs more than 920 in Davidson County, and the total payroll generated was $18.54 million last year. State tax revenue generated in the county totaled $7.47 million, and about $4.33 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.
Despite not having the major resources of surrounding metropolitan areas, the county does well each year with the N.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lexington barbeque, Childress Winery and the Memorial Day celebration which helped make the Chair City an All-American City.
"I really think a lot of our success is due to the good partnerships we form within the county," Bivens said. "Because of those partnerships, we have been able to have a positive influence in the community and have been able to reach out further and have an impact elsewhere. People don't see divisions between cities in Davidson County. Sure I'd love to say that people come to Lexington, eat in Lexington, but the reality is that we're building an area."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.