Area attracts tourism pros

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Staff photo by Joshua Curry 

The 2013 North Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held March 10-12, at the Wilmington Convention Center

Between 500 and 600 tourism professionals from across North Carolina will descend on the Cape Fear region Sunday, March 10, for the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism. 

Held each year at a location on the coast, in the Piedmont or in the mountains, the conference serves as a chance for tourism and marketing professionals from the state’s different destinations to discuss the collective marketing of the state of North Carolina.  

On Tuesday, March 5, Wit Tuttell, director of tourism marketing for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, said the timing of the conference comes at a strategic point in the year for local tourism development agencies. 

“We do it in March because the division of tourism announces its marketing plan and the vast majority of our marketing plan is cooperative advertising, so industry members from around the state can align their plans with ours,” Tuttell said. “Part of it is the unveiling of our marketing plan, another part is a lot of educational seminars where we talk about the latest trends in the industry.” 

The seminars planned for this year’s conference pertain to subjects like the utilization of social media, how to lure a film production to a destination and the importance of sports tourism in communities. 

Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitor’s Bureau CEO and president, Kim Hufham, said the CVB is excited to host the conference again for the first time since 2000. Wilmington was not able to host the conference for several years until the completion of the Wilmington Convention Center, because the event outgrew the Hilton Wilmington Riverside space that was used as the previous venue, she said. 

Connie Nelson, CVB communications director, said the conference would also impact the economy of the downtown area and Wilmington as out-of-town attendees will book hotel rooms, dine out and shop. 

Hufham said she was also looking forward to seeing the state’s marketing plan for the coming fiscal year. 

“It gives us an opportunity to see the state plan early enough in the year that we are able to tap into it if there are some co-op plans. We work that into what we have; we don’t follow it verbatim per se because they cover such a broad base, so there are some markets that may not fit for us. But there are some that do, so we take advantage of as many of the programs as we can if it benefits our mission,” she said.

With regard to the health of the state’s economy, Tuttel said tourism has proven to be a vital component throughout the recent recession. 

“There is a lot of competition now, everyone realizes that tourism is a great economic engine for states,” Tuttel said. 

Tuttel also said the annual conference helps to collectively focus the marketing strategy for North Carolina tourism development to make the state’s appeal stronger. 

“We don’t have a Disney spending $100 million marketing for us; we don’t even have a Myrtle Beach, which spends about $37 million marketing,” he said. “The main thing we do as a division of tourism is we try to build programs where we take our limited budget and get people to partner with us to buy more and to market more than if we stood apart.” 

Although the conference is named the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Tuttel said he does not know if Governor Pat McCrory plans to speak. 

“The governor is always invited to speak; sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.” 


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