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  • Writer's pictureTom Lewis

TDA Investments Pay Off In Promoting New Bern Area

Marketing efforts result in 4.9 percent increase in visitor Spending In 2016.

Charlie Hall:

An investment of $312,000 for an impact return of $137 million is money well-spent in any market.

That’s the amount the Craven County Tourism Development Authority spent in 2016 to promote the area nationwide, with an East Coast concentration, that produced a record high 4.9 percent increase in visitor spending.

An aggressive advertising program ranges from billboards and ads in print media to broadcast spots, extensive digital media to sending representatives to trade and lifestyle shows and even hosting informational tour events for travel and leisure-time writers.

“Many people know what we have to offer. Getting out there and getting the word out is what is important,” said Mary McGee, director of the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center.

High Tide Creative, based in Bridgeton, is the marketing firm for the TDA.

“They have done a great job of getting the word out and showing what New Bern is all about,” she said.

McGee said 2016 doubled the percentage increase in visitor spending from 2015, with an overall increase in tourism every year since 2010, following the recession. The last time the area had a decrease in tourism was 2009, although there was still $99 million worth of visitor spending.

The advertising expenditures come mainly from the 6 percent occupancy tax — “Heads on Beds.” The occupancy tax brought in $1.6 million in 2016 for all of Craven County.

She said the campaign also partners with the state’s Visit NC campaign.

“As you know, New Bern is also a retirement destination,” she added.

New Bern was recently selected by Idea Living magazine as best small retirement community.

Melissa Riggle, the TDA’s tourism and sales executive, plays a major role in one-on-one meetings that range from retirement shows to speaking engagements. She attends consumer shows for travel, tourism, retirement and relocation.

“It is for individuals looking for new destinations, for travel agencies and for your leisure enthusiast,” Riggle said. “The largest show we have attended in the last two years was for 22,000 people for a weekend. That is where we are promoting nothing but visiting New Bern.”

Riggle said the TDA’s spending on promotion is small compared to some coastal counties.

“We are very conservative with our budget,” she said. “In putting that in perspective, 45 minutes down the road in Carteret County, their advertising budget is $1 million-plus. We have to really realize those dollars very well to capture that leisure group.”

She said that in peak months, the revenue from the occupancy tax can reach $130,000.

“There are also the day-tripper who comes in and maybe doesn’t stay overnight this time, but will go and have lunch downtown or go shopping,” she said.

The New Bern area tourism impact is according to “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2016,” prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association.

The travel and tourism industry directly employed more than 1,140 people in Craven County. Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Craven County was $26.86 million in 2016. State tax revenue in Craven County totaled $7.57 million through state sales and excise taxes, as well as income taxes. Local taxes generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses totaled $2.98 million.

“It’s encouraging seeing success in North Carolina’s travel and tourism industry throughout the state, and we are looking forward to further growth in the coming year,” said McGee. “We hope to see an increase in domestic travelers to Craven County with our targeted advertising and marketing efforts in 2017.”

The New Bern numbers are reflective of the state. North Carolina set a record in 2016 spending of $22.9 billion, representing a 4 percent increase from 2015. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending rose 5.1 percent to top $1.2 billion. Visitors spent more than $62 million per day in North Carolina in 2016, adding nearly $5.1 million per day to state and local tax revenues.

All eight economic development regions of the state had spending growth of 3 percent or more, and 97 percent of the state’s counties saw direct tourism employment growth from 2015 to 2016.

For 2017, High Tide Creative, under Todd Willis, Tom Lewis and Kim Kruger, has developed a campaign that stresses the “new” in New Bern...

“The message is simple and weaves the word ‘new’ into all communications,” said Lewis, partner and creative director on the High Tide web page. “History is our foundation, yet we have so much more to offer.”

For more information, call 637-9400 or go online to

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or Follow him on Twitter @CharlieHallNBSJ

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