“Tourism spending in Ashe County has steadily increased since 1991,” said President of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Board Kelly St. Germain. “In 2010, it nearly reached $43 million.”
St. Germain, along with Chamber Executive Director Cabot Hamilton, said the presentation was designed to make tourism’s impact on the local economy easy for everyone to understand, and highlight what tourism means for the average county household.
“Every household in the county saved $415 in taxes because of tourism,” said St. Germain. “This means commissioners were not given the uneviable task of raising taxes, or cutting services, to come up with the difference.”
The chamber reached that $415 number by dividing the tax revenue from tourism in 2010, $4.86 million, by the number of occupied households in Ashe County, 11,696.
As an economic development strategy, the chamber claims tourism diversifies the economy, generates many support businesses, promotes business development - ‘Today’s visitor may be tomorrow’s investor’, and creates jobs and new business growth.
“It’s important to remember that these are good jobs that can’t be outsourced to China,” said St. Germain.
Since 1991, tourism spending in Ashe County has grown from $14.29 million, to $42.99 million in 2010, an increase of $28.7 million over 20 years, or roughly 200 percent. According to the numbers, tourists spend approximately $1.43 million dollars more each year in Ashe County.
As a point of comparison, Watauga County is the high country leader in tourist spending at $189.77 million in 2010. Avery was second at $89.82 million, Wilkes landed in third at $57.79 million, Ashe was fourth at $42.99 million, Caldwell was fifth at $42.45 million, and Alleghany came in sixth at $20.72 million.
The average daily spending by tourists in Ashe County was $117,781 per day ($42.99 million/365). The chamber also claims tourist spending in Ashe County generated paychecks worth $17,123 each day, state taxes worth $6,575 each day, and Ashe County taxes worth $6,740 each day.
“Our job is to market the natural beauty of this county and increase those numbers,” said St. Germain.
St. Germain said the chamber is currently collaborating with Dr. Mike Evans, a professor and director of the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at Appalachian State University, to better understand why tourists come to Ashe County, what they’re hoping to find, and what they want to do when they arrive.
“We’re going to take that information and put together a professional marketing plan with Caddell Communications,” said St. Germain. “We want to be able to put our marketing dollars to maximum effect.”
St. Germain said, ideally, everyone in the county would be “on the same page” with their marketing efforts, so that marketing could be focused as efficiently as possible, generating the best possible results.
“We’ve just got so much going for us, vibrant communities, our natural environment, just a lot of positives,” said St. Germain.