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Tourism impact grew to $46.5 million in 2012

Originally published: Aug. 16, 2013
Last modified: Aug. 16, 2013

Adam Orr

The impact of tourism continued to grow in Ashe County last year, reaching an all-time high, according to data released by the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development on Aug. 12.

Spending by domestic visitors increased to $46.5 million in 2012, a 2.7 percent increase compared to 2011.

The data indicates increased local tourism spending for the third consecutive year, according to Cabot Hamilton, executive director of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce.

“Tourism is a significant ‘player’ in the continuing economic development of Ashe County,” Hamilton said Tuesday, and continued by saying jobs created locally by tourism cannot be exported to another country.

Nearly 400 Ashe County residents were directly employed by tourism-related businesses in 2012, up from 370 jobs in 2011, while total payroll generated by the tourism industry increased to $6.58 million dollars last year, up from $6.46 million in 2011.

Each day, tourists spent more than $127,500 in Ashe County in 2012, up from slightly more than $124,200 per day in 2011.

State and local tax revenues generated by the tourism industry in Ashe County grew to $4.79 million, representing more than $400 in tax savings per household in 2012.

Ashe County has more than 200 rooms available for lodging, four campgrounds, more than 175 cabins, 30 plus restaurants and unique shops devoted to antiques, clothing, books gifts and specialty foods, according to the chamber.

The New River, and New River State Park, Shatley Springs, Florence Thomas Art School, and the historic towns of Jefferson, Lansing, Todd and West Jefferson all continue to be significant draws to the area, in addition to outdoor activities such as horseback riding, kayaking, hiking fishing and tubing, according to Hamilton in previous interviews.

The chamber has spent much of the past two years developing and introducing a marketing plan tailored to Ashe County. It released research in 2012 that indicates that the average Ashe County visitor is between 35 and 64, has an average household income between $50,000 and $100,000, are generally college educated, white and lives in North Carolina and surrounding states including South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Virginia.

During the past two decades, tourism has played a larger role in the county’s economy, growing from $14.29 million in 1991 to $46.5 million in 2012, an increase of $32.21 million in a span of 22 years, or roughly 225 percent.

According to the numbers, tourists spend about $1.47 million dollars more each each year in Ashe County.

Statewide, visitors to North Carolina spent a record $19.4 billion, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, supporting more than 40,000 businesses and more than 200,000 jobs across the state.

Visitors generated more than $1.5 billion in tax revenue across North Carolina, the nation’s sixth most visited state, according to the data.
For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.