Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pasquotank County sees 8.2 Percent Increase in 2007 Visitor Expenditures

Russ Haddad, ECACVB
Phone: (252) 335-5330
Elizabeth Evans, Cahoon & Cross
Phone: (757) 420-6944

More than $47 million in travel and tourism spending is an all-time high

(Elizabeth City, N.C., Aug. 8, 2008) -- Visitors to Pasquotank County spent $47.5 million in 2007, representing an increase of 8.2 percent over the previous year and a record high, according to a just-released study commissioned by the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.

Expenditures in the Elizabeth City area are above the statewide increase of 7.4 percent, and Pasquotank County is among the top 18 percent of counties that saw increases.

“This is great news for Elizabeth City,” said Russ Haddad, director of the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (ECACVB). “During times when people are scaling back their travel plans, the increase speaks well to our targeted marketing program and the region’s appeal.”

The Travel Industry Association of America prepares “The Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties” study annually for the state tourism division. It tracks visitor expenditures and tourism-related payroll, employment figures and tax receipts for all 100 North Carolina counties.

Pasquotank County’s visitor expenditures have seen a steady increase over the past few years, according to previous studies. Visitors spent $43.9 million in 2006, $40.9 million in 2005 and $38.7 million in 2004.

“The marketing efforts we began three years ago are on target and visitors are responding to our invitation to come to Elizabeth City,” said Haddad.

In 2005, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Tourism Development Authority was created to oversee the newly created ECACVB. Previously, the tourism office had been organized under the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce. That same year, the ECACVB introduced its marketing and advertising campaign, “Discover the Good Life Daily.”

The marketing campaign for July 2007 through June 2008 represents the first full year that the ECACVB has implemented its five-year marketing plan. Using print advertisements, cooperative promotions and public relations, the campaign showcased the Elizabeth City area’s rich mix of history, natural resources and hometown charm, while positioning the region as a starting point for an extended regional visit.

“The combination of paid media advertisements, leveraged with public relations, increased the exposure of the region dramatically,” said Margaret Cahoon, a founding partner of Cahoon & Cross, the ECACVB’s marketing and public relations firm.

Targeting residents within a 175-mile radius of Elizabeth City, the advertising campaign featured four-color print advertisements in selected North Carolina visitor, group tour and waterway guides and magazines such as AAA Carolinas Go, Our State, Virginia Living and regional editions of Coastal Living and Southern Living, among others.

In 2007-2008, the Downtown Business and Professional Association, working with the ECACVB, developed a $15,000 fall and spring radio promotion designed to attract out-of-town visitors for weekend stays. The 14 co-op members that participated received a 3:1 return on investment as a result of the campaign.

Public relations outreach also received a boost when the Museum of the Albemarle hosted an exhibition of Ansel Adams photos documenting a 1940 vacation cruise that took the famous photographer along the Intracoastal Waterway. News of the exhibition generated more than $180,000 in public relations value, thanks to a public relations push that resulted in articles in The Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post and Atlanta’s Journal-Constitution.

For the year ahead, the ECACVB will continue to market Elizabeth City strategically through new online social networking opportunities, increased public relations and the launch of the new “Discover Elizabeth City” advertising and marketing co-op program that has attracted 30 Elizabeth City area attractions, sites and businesses.

“Working together as a region makes good economic sense,” said Haddad. “We look forward to getting the word out about the Elizabeth City area in new and innovative ways.”

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