Public meeting scheduled for Mount Airy tourism study results at the Earle Theatre on Tuesday

By Terri Flagg - [email protected]

Results from a feasibility study and marketing assessment will be presented at a Tuesday public meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Earle Theatre.

The study was initially commissioned by the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority to determine if a downtown hotel with meeting space would be sustainable and make sense from a business standpoint, said Jessica Icenhour Roberts, director of tourism and marketing.

The question became site-specific when the city bought the Spencer’s property and was eventually expanded to include the marketing assessment.

Information from the study has a wide benefit for people throughout the community, Roberts said.

“It’s important to see who our visitor is and why they’re coming here, and what we can do in the future to increase tourism to the area.”

Representatives from Destination Services LLC, the company that conducted the study, will present the final results at the meeting.

A summary of the downtown lodging feasibility study, an overview of the area market and visitor profile and recommendations for the future will be presented in three 15-minute segments.

“It has some really good information that’s going to be shared,” Roberts said.

After the presentation the floor will be open for public comment and questions.

“We want to know how do they feel about what research has been found,“ Roberts said. “It helps TDA to be able to decide if that fits into what we want to do or want not to do. It’s direction we can use going forward that will keep our tourism strong. That includes Mayberry but also other things we can use to market ourselves in the future.”

Roberts said a similar study was commissioned in 2004, the results of which have since helped shape the local approach to tourism.

“They left us with a lot of things we’ve implemented,” Roberts said. “It’s time to do it again. The world has changed since 2004, especially with social media.”

With the stated goal of bringing more visitors to Mount Airy who will stay longer and spend more money while they are here, the TDA is funded by the occupancy tax which applies to overnight stays at local hotels.

So far, the organization has spent about $49,000 of an anticipated $60,000 for the study.

According to information supplied by the tourism authority, the industry has continued to grow over the past several years but at a slower rate.

In 2010 tourism was up by 10.38 percent from the previous year, 4.43 percent in 2012 and 2.56 percent in 2014.

A public meeting was held several months ago with the initial findings from the downtown lodging feasibility study.

Those findings indicated that a downtown lodging/meeting facility could justify itself.

Roberts, who has reviewed the study’s final results, said there are no major changes with that assessment, but hopes the study as a whole will address the impact of a downtown facility on existing businesses.

“They’re already here, they’re already established,” she said. “We want them to be comfortable with it.”

Another component of the study is to investigate diversifying beyond the ‘Mayberry’ brand.

For example, “the wine industry has grown substantially,” Roberts said, adding that “Mayberry is still important.”

For additional information, contact Jessica Icenhour Roberts at 786-6116 or [email protected]

By Terri Flagg

[email protected]

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

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