As we bid adieu to another travel season, let us reflect on the busy time of year that actually proves to benefit our pockets. Sure, there might be aggravation with the congestion on Hwy 64 (commonly known as Dixie Drive) at all hours of the day, but have you stopped to think about the silver lining? The stop and go traffic is actually allowing citizens of our County a tax break - yes, I said it. "Tourists - and the dollars they spend - can provide a boost to a community's local income and government revenues." (Government Finance Review)

Nationally, visitors spent $610.2 billion in 2009 and contributed $186.3 billion to the United States' payroll income. U.S. travelers created 7.4 million jobs in the tourism industry and allowed $113 billion in tax receipts for citizens of the United States (preliminary data from US Travel Association).

Across the state of North Carolina, tourism expenditures have directly supported 183,800 jobs for residents. The tourism industry alone contributed $3.91 billion to the state's payroll; and traveler spending generated more than $2.5 billion in tax receipts. North Carolina is ranked 6th among domestic travelers for vacations, behind California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania (2009 Economic Impact of Travel on NC Counties | NC Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development by US Travel Association).

The Heart of NC is a family friendly destination with a leisure market. Spending patterns and behaviors from our demographic in 2009 were recorded at $100.84 million (Randolph County Tourism Development Authority 2009 Annual Report). The experience for these visitors may include the following: lodging, food/meals, transportation, attractions/amusements admission, and shopping. These variables could also exceed the total number of expenditures for a visit depending on the age bracket of the traveler. Tax savings per Randolph County resident was noted at $54.94 and savings per Randolph County household was $131.48.

Our County ranks 34th in the state for its economic impact in the tourism industry as a result of visitor spending. In 2009, there were 890 direct tourism jobs. These positions can be categorized in a public support system such as: law enforcement, water, sewer, restrooms, streets, medical facilities, rescue systems, parks, solid waste services, and campgrounds. Private support services - more commonly identified with tourism - are tour guides, hotel/motel/bed & breakfast rooms, restaurants, and transportation.

Another benefit of tourism that should be considered is the immeasurable factor of a reconditioned sense of community pride. Our visitors are from as far away as Canada and enjoy not only the mild weather but especially our southern hospitality. Throughout the past few years I have frequented restaurants or shopping venues and overheard an employee explain to a family of four that there is "nothing to do around here". Have you made a visit to Downtown Asheboro to see how it has come alive again? Have you seen the newest exhibit at our largest attraction? Do you realize what a gem we have in Seagrove with our pottery history?

Imagine if the traveler spending $400 per weekend during their visit to our area returned because of a pleasant welcoming community - and better yet, shared their experience with their family and friends. Now that you can visualize the tax relief visitors to the Heart of NC provide - how do we keep them coming back for more? I would like to extend a challenge to you, as members of a growing community; to educate yourself and your employees of the impact tourism has on local business revenue, governmental resources, and ultimately tax breaks for citizens. We should all keep in mind our leaders from the past - President Ronald Regan, 1984: "...the importance of travel and tourism goes far beyond economics."

-Amber Williams | Tourism Coordinator | Heart of NC Visitors Bureau