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Tourism expenditures rise in Rowan County

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
Visitor spending in Rowan and Cabarrus counties increased significantly last year.
That’s according to figures released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.
In Rowan County, tourism expenditures rose 5.5 percent to $118.27 million in 2007. That’s the county’s highest total ever, up more than $6 million from 2006.
The county ranked 28th in tourism among North Carolina’s 100 counties. A year earlier, Rowan County ranked 29th.
“We benefitted from the fact that we’re part of the Charlotte region and the Charlotte region did well overall,” said James Meacham, executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority.
He said a number of NASCAR events held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord attracted visitors to the area, with many coming to Rowan County for rooms and meals.
In Cabarrus County, the news was even better.
Visitor spending there rose to $275.41 million in 2007 ó up 12.1 percent from 2006. The rate of increase ranks Cabarrus County’s tourism industry as one of the fastest growing in the state, boosting the county from No. 13 to No. 12 in terms of overall visitor spending.
“Over the past 10 years, visitor spending in Cabarrus County has increased an average of 10 percent a year,” said DeSales Wagster, president of the Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our unprecedented 12.1 percent increase in 2007 is largely due to the opening of the Concord Convention Center and Embassy Suites Golf Resort Hotel & Spa. With a host of new tourism products currently under construction on Bruton Smith Boulevard, we expect to see more dramatic growth in the coming years.”
The state’s annual study, prepared by the Travel Industry of America, tracks tourism expenditures, payroll, employment and state and local tax receipts for every North Carolina county.
In Rowan County, the hotel market also saw revenue increase by 4.4 percent in 2007 to $10.59 million.
In 2007, more than 1,200 Rowan County jobs were directly attributable to travel and tourism, and those jobs generated a payroll of $20.4 million.
The Department of Commerce also reported that state and local tax revenues from tourism to Rowan County amounted to $9.97 million. That represents a $172.37 tax savings to each county household.
Meacham said Rowan County has much going for it when it comes to tourism. In addition to the area’s NASCAR draw, the county boasts popular local attractions like Dan Nicholas Park and the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer.
Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn both made major capital investments in their properties in 2007.
Meacham said business travel to Rowan County is always brisk, with many executives from Food Lion flying to Salisbury and staying in local hotels.
The filming of “Leatherheads” in several Rowan County locations in the spring of 2007 further bumped tourism figures.
“It’s the best year we’ve ever had,” Meacham said.
Other nearby counties also saw increased tourism spending. The report showed:
– Davidson County, up 3.6 percent, to $116.73 million.
– Davie County, up 4.2 percent, to $28.86 million.
– Stanly County, up 7.2 percent, to $66.76 million.
Across North Carolina, tourism spending increased to $17.1 billion.
“Our very important state tourism industry continues to grow, even as the national economy is struggling,” Gov. Mike Easley said in a press release.

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