May 8, 2014

Governor visits Outer Banks to
tout value of tourism to the state


The suit and tie were one thing, but Gov. Pat McCrory wasn’t about to keep on his shoes during a brief visit Thursday morning to an Oregon Inlet beach.

“It’s great having my toes in the sand right here in Dare County,” McCrory said, standing on the south side of the inlet with the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge behind him.
Speaking with a small group of reporters and local officials, McCrory said that the bridge served as a suitable backdrop to highlight the economic value of tourism to the state and to the Outer Banks.

A study released Wednesday by the U.S. Travel Association said that a record 52.5 million domestic travelers visited the state last year, spending $20.2 billion, supporting nearly 200,000 jobs and making North Carolina the sixth most visited state. 

McCrory said that the Outer Banks is a lead attraction in North Carolina.

“Dare County is the capital of travel and tourism right now,” he said. “Listen, all of us who grew up in North Carolina have fond memories of coming to the Outer Banks. And there’s so many activities going on in this area.”

A new state brand that will be introduced next month will be including reference to the Outer Banks, McCrory said.
McCrory said that the state and the Outer Banks benefit from the health of the tourism industry in North Carolina.

“This has been a tough winter,” he said. “But I’m telling you right now -- the Carolina Comeback is continuing.”

In addition to recovery in the manufacturing and agriculture industries, the governor credited revenue increases from travel and tourism for making it possible to give teachers a 2 percent raise, a proposal he recently announced. 

Citing the travel study, McCrory said that preliminary figures found that direct tourism-related employment increased about 2 percent and state tax revenue from visitor spending rose 4 percent to more than $1 billion.

Tourism also generated $597 million in local taxes across the state, the study said, translating to $4.4 million per day in local and state taxes paid by visitors. And those tourists spent $55 million a day at more than 40,000 businesses statewide that serve travelers. 

McCrory said that the Bonner Bridge is important infrastructure not just to Outer Banks residents, but to the travel industry.

“This is the entry point,” he said. “We cannot afford to have this shut down during peak tourism season.”

The administration is “working as quickly as possible” to get the new bridge built.

Construction has been halted by a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.

“This bridge continues to be on borrowed time,” McCrory said.

The governor issued a proclamation declaring May 3-May 11 Tourism Week in North Carolina.

Before leaving, McCrory couldn’t help putting his bare feet in the water, exclaiming how warm it was.

“I refuse to wear dress shoes on a beach,” he said. “I won’t do it.”

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