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Chatham County leads state in increased spending by visitors

Posted Sunday, August 19, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC = A new statewide report shows that “domestic visitors” spent $27.73 million in Chatham County during 2011, an increase of 10.8 percent from 2010. Chatham tied with Davidson County for the biggest tourism spending increase in the state.

On August 7, 2012, the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports released the results of the annual study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study finds that Chatham is one of just seven counties in the state with an increase above 10 percent.

County Manager Charlie Horne said, “To lead the state in tourism spending is fantastic news and demonstrates the hard work of our countywide Convention and Visitors Bureau to very effectively promote Chatham as a destination, even with a one-person office.”

Horne added that more tourism dollars means that “more money is going to local businesses, such as restaurants, shops and lodging. The more money we have circulating, the more it uplifts the economy and helps the entire community.”

For example, the report showed that in 2011 travel and tourism in Chatham County directly employed more than 160 people and generated payroll of $3.22 million.

The report found that visitor-related businesses generated approximately $500,000 in Chatham County tax revenues (sales and property tax) in 2011, or a savings of about $33.02 per county resident. During 2011, the businesses also generated an additional $1.62 million in various kinds of state government tax revenues.

Guy E. Loeffler, a local wine producer, said, “Having four wineries in Chatham County has certainly helped with that increase. We are definitely attracting visitors from all over and it is a win-win economically. First they visit and then they want to either move here or bring a business here. It's that simple."

In the past three years, the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) created the Heart of North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Trail and the Heart of North Carolina Wine Trail as a way to build interest in local wineries and unique accommodations.

The trails are examples of how the CVB has worked with a variety of local entities to develop visitor packages and itineraries around specific interests, such as spas, biplane adventures, wine tasting, golf, and more, according to Neha Shah, director of the CVB.

“We have had a major focus on helping local visitor-related businesses market themselves, such as our academy to help them better use social media to attract visitors,” Shah said. “Social media options like Twitter and Facebook are particularly important for small entities that may not have a website.”

The CVB also helped create an ecotourism certificate and a Spanish immersion program, which both help local tourist-related businesses expand their customers.
On a different front, the CVB has garnered national media attention by working with its partners to share the stories and experiences that illustrate the variety that Chatham County offers travelers, Shah said.

The local CVB will be one of three pilot counties in the state partnering with NC State University in developing People-First Tourism (PFT), which will help travelers communicate directly with tourism entrepreneurs. The NC Rural Development Center recently funded the launch of PFT (

Additional information on the CVB can be found at:

Gov. Beverly Perdue announced in May that visitors to North Carolina spent a record $18.4 billion in 2011, an increase of 8.2 percent from 2010.

These statistics are from the 2011 study, which uses sales and tax revenue data plus employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina. Statewide highlights include:

  • State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending neared $1 billion in 2011 and have increased nearly 52 percent in the last 10 years.
  • Visitors spend more than $50 million per day in North Carolina and contribute over $4.3 million per day in state and local tax revenues as a result of that spending (nearly $3 million in state taxes and over $1.5 million in local taxes).
  • The travel and tourism industry directly employees nearly 200,000 North Carolinians.
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