RALEIGH, N.C. — When you think of big money makers in our state, farming, tobacco and furniture probably come to mind. But tourism?
Yep. Last year, more than 44 million people visited North Carolina. They left behind a lot of cash.
But the people who work to lure tourists here want a bigger piece of the action -- especially when it comes to the
Golf is more than just a game in North Carolina. With 600 golf courses across the state, it's also serious business. Tourism officials are pulling out all the stops to put North Carolina and its golf resorts on the map.
Playing three days of golf at North Carolina's best courses is good work if you can get it. Golf writers from the U.S. and abroad are hitting the links in Wake Forest, Pinehurst and Durham as guests of the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The writers' articles reach millions of golfers all over the world. The CVB hopes they'll spread the word about North Carolina.
"I think it's one of those areas; it's not first on people's minds," golf writer Anthony Pioppi said. "We look to Myrtle Beach and that kind of destination.
"It (the Triangle) is a place people need to know more about. Once they do, they'd be inclined to come here."
North Carolina's golf industry is banking on it.
Tourists spent nearly $12 billion across the state last year. But many golf resorts are still recovering from a drop-off in business travel.
"Naturally, since 9-11, there was quite a dropoff, especially in corporate golf," said Mike Floyd of the N.C. Golf Marketing Alliance. "But local players are still coming. We're increasing drive traffic, so the numbers aren't down as significantly as they could have been."
The industry is focusing on people who live within driving distance, who made up 84 percent of the business last year.
Courses aren't just encouraging people to travel. They want more people to take up the game and become customers.
"The average golfer has been a stagnant number over the last few years," Floyd said. "People drop out, and just as many people come in. So there's a concentrated effort to grow the game of golf."
The CVB said it will get $500,000 dollars worth of publicity from the writers who are in town this week. The Bureau estimates that one article that was published in the London Daily Mail was worth $4,000.