National Travel and Tourism Week is May 6-12, 2018
National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) will be celebrated this year from May 6-12. This annual tradition celebrates the positive impact travel has for local economies, businesses, and personal well-being. 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of the original congressional resolution that established NTTW in 1983. This year’s theme, “Then and Now,” is a challenge to industry leaders to reflect on travel successes of years past while advocating for policies that promote growth for the future.
Many may not realize that tourism has an enormous impact throughout Jackson County that affects the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. For instance, travel to Jackson County results in $188.24 million annually in expenditures on lodging, food service, transportation, retail, recreation and entertainment. In the past five years alone, the tourism economy to the towns of Jackson County have increased significantly, with accommodation sales in the county rising from $18 million to $27 million annually.
Tourists to the county pay occupancy taxes that fund the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority (JCTDA), whose mission is to promote Jackson County as a premier mountain destination. The JCTDA operates on a budget comprised solely of room occupancy tax (no local or state taxes), and the organization reinvests every available dollar back into advertising and promotion of Jackson County to their target markets. Additionally, the JCTDA has returned over $100,000 in grant funding to local festivals and events, environmental groups and community groups that improve local experiences for both residents and visitors.
As a whole, tourism supports 1,810 jobs locally and is one of the largest private-sector employers in the United States. Put another way, if those tourism jobs were added to the unemployment roll, then unemployment would top 15 percent. In Jackson County, tourism jobs’ payroll is $44 million a year.
In 2017, the JCTDA worked with the Cashiers Area and Jackson County Visitor Centers to determine the top reasons tourist come to the area. The research showed that the top reasons were cooler temperatures, hiking, waterfalls, fall color, nature, outdoor adventure, weddings, fishing, relaxation, history and heritage, being an affordable getaway, and to visit family and friends. Collecting this information is beneficial for marketing and advertising efforts to better target travel demographics with the best messaging to increase visitation to the area.
“The Jackson County TDA is proud to showcase the importance and power of the travel, tourism and the hospitality industry during National Travel and Tourism Week,” said Jackson County TDA Director Nick Breedlove. “To tie into this year’s theme of ‘Then and Now,’ I looked back through our archives to determine what we did to promote tourism as far back as the 20s. We promoted much of the same as we do today – hiking, fly fishing and waterfalls. We touted our proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We used the phrase “In the middle of the most!” to describe our centralized location to so many natural wonders. It’s telling that we are still promoting those same benefits and activities in another era. The natural assets in the area haven’t changed, so many of the reasons to travel here haven’t changed either.”
Through promotional efforts from July 2017 to March 2018, with the assistance of its partners, the JCTDA secured features in 180 editorial (non-paid) pieces including online and print articles, TV segments and social media posts, which has in turn put Jackson County’s message as a destination in front of millions of people across the country. These articles appeared in outlets such as SouthernLiving.com, Travel + Leisure, WeatherChannel.com, Thrillist, Expedia, Travel Channel, MSN, USA Today, and many more.
“There are several factors that contribute to the success of our tourism program,” Breedlove said. “Our accommodation owners deserve credit for maintaining clean, affordable and top-notch facilities that help position us as a leading destination that leaves people wanting to return. Alongside the quality of the accommodations are the hospitable and friendly service our guests receive when they are visiting any of our Jackson County partners. From restaurants to attractions and premier outdoor recreation outfitters, we have consistently heard that Jackson County is the friendliest destination that tourists have experienced.”
Jackson County looks forward to continuing with these efforts and to welcome visitors to our special corner of the U.S. To learn more about the JCTDA and its mission, please visit https://www.jacksoncountytda.com/.