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City expects boosted business from 3-day Main Street Conference

SALISBURY — Today is the first day of the N.C. Main Street Conference in Salisbury, and hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are filled up.

For Krista Osterweil, general manager of Salisbury’s Hampton Inn and chairwoman of the Rowan County Tourism Board, it’s business as usual. The hotel is booked, but Osterweil said it generally is on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. She hopes other businesses take advantage of the flock of visitors coming to Salisbury.

Andrew and Mary Walker, owners of Across the Pond Bed and Breakfast, say they are typically booked on the weekends but the conference brought guests to stay during the week. Andrew Walker said he could have easily filled the bed-and-breakfast twice over if they had the space.

James Meacham, CEO of the Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the hotel blocks were planned months in advanced, and the majority of hotels are sold out. 

Meacham and tourism staff have also worked to provide a shuttle service with trolleys to and from the conference.

Today, the shuttle service will begin at noon and continue to until 11 p.m. On Wednesday, it will run from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Meacham said there are also signs to direct conference attendees where to park downtown, but he recommends using the trolleys.

Osterweil said her staff is prepared to answer specific questions about transportation to the conference, display a poster in the lobby and pass out information about the trolley.

Meacham and Downtown Salisbury Inc. have worked with downtown merchants to prepare for an increase in visitors to their shops and restaurants to ensure they are ready and properly stocked up. Though, he said this is standard operating procedure for most merchants when they see a jump in foot traffic during N.C. Transportation Museum programs and other activities.

The conference is expected to bring 700 visitors, compared to 460 who attended the 2013 N.C. Main Street Conference.

The 2013 conference had a visitor economic impact of about $122,000. This year, the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s initial projection for visitor-related economic impact is $185,000.

Many attending the conference will return home with ideas for redevelopment of their cities, but Meacham said he wants to leave a lasting impression on them so they will return to Salisbury.

Walker said one of his guests is returning to the bed-and-breakfast after staying there during the 2013 conference. The home is attractive for visitors who want a taste of the historic qualities of the city, he said. Walker said his wife, who is volunteering at the conference, will be prepared for those who might want to return to Salisbury and pass out business cards for Across the Pond Bed and Breakfast.

Walker said he’s seen a fascination for Salisbury among visitors, including people coming from only an hour away in Charlotte or Winston-Salem.

“When you get people to come here, they say, ‘Wow,’” Walker said.

Meacham said he expected some conference participants to check in on Monday night. He said visitors will spend some time in Salisbury after the conference, but the majority will head home.

For more information about the conference, visit ncmainstreetconference.com.

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