Last updated: June 01. 2013 5:46AM - 186 Views
James Howell
Staff Writer

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Ashe County has a new reason to celebrate now that a recent report reveals the county’s tourism rate is climbing.

This is due to area attractions like the Blue Ridge Parkway, the New River State Park, Mount Jefferson State Park, the Ashe County Cheese Factory and the Ashe County frescoes.

The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development announced domestic visitors spent $45.34 million in 2011. This is an increase of 5.5 percent since 2010.

This report also revealed the following:

• In 2011, Ashe County ranked 58th in travel impact among North Carolina’s 100 counties.

• Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Ashe County was $6.46 million.

• State and local tax revenues from travel to Ashe County amounted to $4.84 million.

• This represents a $408 tax saving to each Ashe County household.

When asked how the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce plans to adjust based on this report, Executive Director Cabot Hamilton said that the chamber is “constantly attempting to improve marketing in Ashe County.”

This should increase visitors from both inside and outside of the state, he said.

In reference to the economy, Hamilton said, “The more visitors we have the better it will be. This is because money generated by the tourism industry computes to a tax saving of $408 for every household. Due to this, the government (county) can supply additional services without having to add new taxes.”

The chamber of commerce recently conducted a professional study to see which activities are attracting tourists to Ashe County. The study shows that there are two primary categories of activities that attract visitors. Hamilton said that these two categories would be the “primary focus for the next few years.”

The first category mentioned by Hamilton is the “outdoor experience” category. Outdoor experiences include hiking and sightseeing around the state parks and parkway. This also includes all of the water activities along the New River.

The developing art culture is the other category that is drawing visitors in. This includes visitations to the Ashe County frescoes, town murals and the art galleries.

Hamilton said that he feels the “economy is making a comeback.” He went on to say that “All towns (West Jefferson, Jefferson, and Lansing) seem to be having positive growth.”

Ashe County isn’t the only county experiencing growth in tourism. The rest of North Carolina is also showing growth recently. In May, Gov. Beverly Perdue announced that visitors to North Carolina spent a record $18.4 billion in 2011. This is an increase of 8.2 percent from 2010.

North Carolina 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 employs nearly 200,000 North Carolinians.

These statistics are from the 2011 Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties. The study was prepared for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development by the U.S. Travel Association.

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