Upcoming Tourism Summit is a celebration of success

By Jessica Johnson

February 6, 2014

Tourism brought more than $100 million in revenue to the local economy in 2012, and the industry will be highlighted with a Surry County Tourism Summiton Feb. 13.

The tourism industry has grown signicantly over the past decade, according to local officials. Jessica Icenhour Roberts, director of tourism and marketing for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center, said the total tourist-related revenue brought to the county in 2012 — the most recent figures available — was $107 million.

Roberts added that at least 770 people in Surry county are employed in the tourism industry which includes $14.92 million in payroll expenditures and $2.23 million in sales tax receipts, according to the most recent figures, which are released each August.

The tourism summit will include an overview of topics that affect the future of tourism for Surry County, Roberts shared. “We will also talk about our public relations efforts over the past year. It’s a very informational, educational, and exciting event, and we would love the public and business community to join us — learn more about and celebrate the great things we have going on here in Surry County.”

The event will be held on Feb. 13 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology at Surry Community College.

Wit Tuttell, executive director for the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development will be the keynote speaker. Tuttell has more than 12 years of experience in the tourism industry and served in the past as director of tourism marketing and the public relations director for the N.C. Division of Tourism.

“Tuttle is a great speaker,” Roberts said. “He will give us a good grasp on how the county fares with tourism and how involved we are in the industry. He has been here for media missions in the past and has worked with us a great deal.”

Tourism representatives for attractions, lodging, bed and breakfasts, wineries, and area restaurants will be in attendance. Prior to the start of the event, Roberts said there will be a time for networking, speaking to destination and attraction representatives, and tasting the selection of Surry County wines and appetizers that will be featured for guests.

“We are excited about this event. People will get to see and taste, and literally taste, what Surry County has to offer. Wineries will be set up so people can taste wines, or get a glass of wine, and food will also be available,” Roberts shared.

“We are encouraging everyone who has businesses involved in the tourism industry, people involved with tourism, and anyone interested in tourism in general, to come out and network with other businesses at this event. This will open up opportunities for working together to promote tourism, as well as referring other businesses. That is what this is all about — getting the word out about tourism in Surry County, what it has done for us and what it has done for the state.”

A “great selection” of individuals and businesses have already RSVP’d for the event, Roberts shared, including an “across-the-board representation” of businesses from around the county, including wineries, breweries, restaurants, people starting new businesses, representatives from the Blue Ridge Heritage area, representatives with the UNC-Greensboro Hospitality and Tourism Dept., people interested in the area, as well as 6th District U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, and a representative from Senator Richard Burr’s office. “We have a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds and interests who will be attending the tourism summit,” Roberts said.

“This event is a celebration of what we have already done, in terms of tourism and marketing, and a look toward our future. We want the public to know we are doing what we can to promote Surry County — we want to bring visitors here to spend money with us, which requires us all working together. We are making good things happen in Surry County.”

The event is hosted by the Tourism Partnership of Surry County.

Anyone who wishes to attend the tourism summit on Feb. 13 should RSVP by Feb. 11 to Jessica Roberts at or call 786-6116. This event is free and open to the public.

Tourism is a $19.4 billion industry in North Carolina, which supports more than 40,000 tourism businesses and jobs across the state.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 or on Twitter @MountAiryJess.