The Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority Board elected officers, discussed tourism-related issues such as a new website and logo for the city, reported on tourism statistics, and discussed upcoming events as well as new ideas to promote tourism in the winter months, during its meeting Thurday.
John M. Overton, city finance director, called the meeting to order and the group moved directly into the first item on the agenda: the election of officers. Greg Perkins, with Perkins & Assoc. Financial Group, was elected to serve as chair for another year. Lenise Lynch, general manager of Hampton Inn, was re-elected as vice chair, Ben Webb with Old North State Winery was re-elected as treasurer, and Magen Atkinson, new board member and administrative assistant to General Manager George Schwab of Cross Creek Country Club, was elected as secretary.
John M. Overton was also nominated to serve again as the representative from the authority for the Tourism Partnership Board of Surry County, which was described by Overton as a “co-operative effort between the area TDA boards.”
A discussion about finances led to the announcement that the occupancy tax was down 10.5 percent in December from the previous year. The general managers of Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn both confirmed that occupancy numbers were also down in January from the previous year.
Board members discussed the reasons for this decline and some ideas mentioned were the employment tax going up, and the general state of the economy, which led to a discussion about how the area could bring in more tourists during the winter months.
Jessica Roberts, director of Tourism and Marketing for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center, said that they were working on more cultural and arts activities in hopes of bringing tourists to the area and had recently started promoting getaway packages, such as girlfriend getaways, that included cultural and arts activities, as well as golf packages.
The group agreed it would like to bring in more overnight visitors and find ways to turn the day-trip tourists into overnight visitors.
As with previous years, Roberts said that Ohio visitors continued to be well-represented in the area, with many people from Ohio who said they stopped in Mount Airy for an overnight stay on their way to the coast.
A new logo and website update from Roberts included information on the current phase of the project, which should be ready for an official launch in about eight weeks. Roberts said she has received great feedback about the new logo and website design and hopes for other groups and businesses to use it for marketing and promotional purposes, in order to maintain consistency and unification.
Roberts said in January the Mount Airy Visitor’s Center logged 1,724 visitors, which is up 23 percent from last year, with international tourists from Italy, Cambodia, Germany, England, and Canada.
The area was represented at recent media events in Raleigh, Charlotte, and New York City. Roberts said she was part of a group at the New York event that pitched the area to magazines and media outlets, including Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, and The Today Show. The event, themed as “N.C. Snapshots,” also featured area wines, including wines from Old North State Winery, Shelton Vineyards, and Round Peak Vineyards.
“They all said ‘We know Mayberry, but what else do you have?’ and they were interested in our [vacation] packages and wineries.”
Roberts also said she was working with the Piedmont Triad Film Commission in order to promote the area for filming television shows, movies, and commercials. She said she had around 20 leads for local filming and a movie that was filmed in the area last year (“You Are Here”) will be released in the spring of this year. The movie features footage from all around the county. “It was good exposure and the cast members even got to try our local wines.”
The episode of AMC’s “Showville” that will feature local talent is expected to air in April and Roberts said they filmed lots of footage of the downtown area, as well as inside local businesses.
“The group here from AMC bought lots of things while they were in town and they also stayed here and dined locally.”
Upcoming events were also discussed, including the Grape and Wine Symposium, which will be held April 2-5 at Surry Community College. This will be “a premier event for viticulture teachers, wine experts, and those in the wine industry.”
On April 20, the Marine Corps League is hosting a meeting which will bring in around 150 people and their families to the area.
This year will also bring the Harley Davidson H.O.G. Rally back to Mount Airy from Aug. 7-10.
The tourism group discussed the recent articles in Our State Magazine about the area, with the March issue featuring White Sulphur Springs.
Roberts said that Our State Magazine will feature a Mount Airy vacation for 50 people, which will be a behind-the-scenes type of weekend trip. Details for the trip package are still in the works, but it will be “great exposure” for the area, according to Roberts.
Our State Magazine is also working with the Visitor’s Center on a new mobile travel app. that will promote the entire county through the monthly issues of the magazine and to the 163,000 email subscribers, Facebook page, Itunes store, and Google Play. This is a free download and has already been downloaded more than 60,000 times with users in 49 out of 50 states as well as by users in Canada.
The meeting came to a close after a discussion of upcoming meeting dates and a reminder by Roberts that the new visitor’s guide would be published in April/May of this year.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.