Numbers released Tuesday by the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development shows that tourism is still an economic driver for Surry County and Mount Airy.
According to Jessica Roberts, Mount Airy’s director of tourism and marketing, spending in the county by visitors to the area increased by 7.9 percent from 2010 to last year, to about $105,520,000.
“I think these numbers show that tourism is very important to Mount Airy, and it’s overall doing well,” Roberts said, noting that the tourism industry employs more than 760 people in the county, a number she says has “grown tremendously” since she became tourism director in 2004.
Last year, the total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Surry County was about $14.39 million.
State tax revenue generated by Surry County totaled $5.73 million through state sales and excise taxes as well as taxes on personal and corporate income.
Local taxes generated by the tourism industry in Surry County and Mount Airy totaled $2.9 million.
But it isn’t just shopkeepers and vineyard owners reaping the rewards of these increased tourism dollars, according to Roberts.
“The tourism industry is important to our local economy because it brings in those necessary outside dollars to be spent in Surry County, and also creates tourism tax relief, saving each household $241 (in taxes),” she said.
And those visitors aren’t just coming from nearby states.
The Mount Airy Visitor’s Center greeted and tracked 305,665 visitors between 2005 and 2011, representing all 50 states in the country.
But visitors from overseas are also flocking to the area.
Last year, workers at the visitor’s center met international visitors from countries including Canada, South America, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, Poland, Italy, Nova Scotia, France, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Aruba, Holland, Norway, Great Britain, Puerto Rico, Bulgaria, Russia, Scotland, Wales, Iran, China, Austria, the Virgin Islands, Peru, India, Spain, Portugal, Guatemala, Israel, Ireland, Venezuela and Bermuda.
Asked what the draw is to bring in so many international visitors, Roberts said it isn’t only about Andy Griffith any more, but noted he is still the main reason visitors come to the area.
“Mayberry is still the hook,” she said. “Ninety percent of the visitors come here for that reason. It’s a big driver, but the wine industry is also becoming a big driver.”
Outdoor recreation and golf are also starting to draw people to the area.
Roberts said she wants to see the numbers grow even more.
“The goal of our local tourism efforts in Surry County and Mount Airy is to bring in more visitors annually, who will spend more money and stay longer in the region,” she said. “It’s heartening to see these numbers grow because that means we’re bringing in more people to the area and they’re staying longer and spending more money. We need those dollars to help with the local economy.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.