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Tide of Tourists Brings Business to Outer Banks

Posted September 3, 2007

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— Along the tide-washed Outer Banks, tourists and their dollars have been rolling in at a higher rate this summer than in the past several years, tourism officials said.

Outer Banks Visitor's Bureau officials said the barrier islands have experienced their best tourist season this summer since since Hurricane Isabel struck in September 2003, ripping up parts of N.C. Highway 12 and causing nearly $168 million worth of damage.

Vacationer Marion Jones said she and her family have witnessed the rush to the beach.

"We have them here from Pennsylvania, Maryland. You meet a lot of nice people that come in for the summer," Jones said.

Labor Day weekend marks the official end to the summer season, after which hotels and rental companies lower their rates by as much as half.

So far, restaurants and hotels are making about 10 percent more money this year than usual - an increase of $50 million, said Carolyn McCormick, with the OBVB.

Joe Cowling, general manager of Colony IV by the Sea, said business is up 15 percent at his hotel in Kill Devil Hills.

Attendance numbers are also up at Jockey's Ridge State Park, from which the Wright Brothers made the first manned flight in 1903. With 36 million tons of sand, Jockey's Ridge is the largest sand dune on the East Coast.

This year, the state park has already seen between 160,000 and 170,000 more visitors than in all of last year, park superintendent George Barnes said.

"The most fulfilling this is when we get to talk to them about how it got here and why it's here," Barnes said.

Cowling said his upsurge in business is partly to due to targeted marketing in the Northeast and Midwest. Most of his guests are from Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said.

"We advertise in those areas. We identify our feeder markets and put our marketing dollars in those areas," Cowling said.

The OBVB also annually spends around $2 million marketing the islands as a tourist destination.

McCormick named a variety of reasons why the Outer Banks has seen a tourist boom this summer.

"Good weather. We've been blessed with good weather," she said. "We've got great roads that have really been improved in the last couple of years."

The widening of U.S. Highway 64, which leads Triangle-area vacationers to Manteo, has helped bring more North Carolinians to the Outer Banks, said McCormick, who did not give a specific number.

Jones pointed to a perhaps more fundamental reason for the tourists at the Outer Banks.

"The beach is beautiful," she said.

21 Comments

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  • darkness Sep 4, 2007

    bullet 44: the outer banks is the area from oregon inlet down
    father of a 4yr old:there is not enough water regardless of evaporation to support this population increase so stop filling the stupid pools
    hp277:whoopteedoo no.6 is still criminal
    mom of 3: no fifty million wasnt spent as for water...well quit drinkin alcohol we dont have the technology in placeto desalinize water for drinking...yeeesssss drinking water its what is going missing.
    and how the f%$#k is manteo the outer banks and its on the mainland?
    jenn2 im not going anywhere i want the rest of you to quit coming lolby the same token i love MY state nc i wish people would quit coming to it
    forget it fuzzy and its still a lie oceanchild btw all i said was the monetary figure involve was a lie so how much of the fifty million did your family get and what does this have to do with 64? jerry0 what did this have to do with roads?

  • OpinionOnEverything Sep 4, 2007

    "Good weather. We've been blessed with good weather," she said. "We've got great roads that have really been improved in the last couple of years."

    The widening of U.S. Highway 64, which leads Triangle-area vacationers to Manteo, has helped bring more North Carolinians to the Outer Banks, said McCormick, who did not give a specific number."

    GREAT! I guess they won't mind paying a TOLL next time they visit our OBX, so they can pay for all those great roads and new bridges. I didn't know that we needed a 4-lane highway all the way from I-95 to get all those tourists to finally make the drive out to Nags Head. I guess it would be asking too much to meander a few miles down a 2-lane country road through some of our smaller towns and stopping by a few local businesses on the way to the ocean.

  • nepatterson Sep 4, 2007

    I used to go to Nags Head every summer growing up until I went off to college. We'd share a rustic beach cottage with a passel of relatives. I went again for the first time in over 20 years about three or four years ago. I won't go back again in the summer. I couldn't believe all the strip malls and big box condos. It only got worse when I went out for a sunrise walk on the beach and discovered it had turned into a giant ash tray. The area was filthy and over-built. The water was always colder than the state's more southern beaches, but one thing it had going for it was a more off-the-beaten-trail tranquility. Now even that is gone. The problem isn't Yankees. It's overpopulation and affluenza. Those two things are changing the quality of life everywhere.

  • JerryO Sep 4, 2007

    bane- apparently, you don't think the people in the eastern part of the state deserve better roads. You must be a politican. For decades that part of the state has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to highway development in favor of the larger, more populated areas. Now that they are starting to grow, they need better access. If you have ever traveled to other similar sized areas, you'll find that Raleighs traffic is no worse than that of other reasonably large metropolitan ares. They could certainly do a better job of engineering and planning, so we wouldn't be paying twice for re-paving and re-designing roads that were supposed to help congestion, but wound up making it worse.

  • aquamama Sep 4, 2007

    I spent my money there this summer. US 64 provides an easy trip from the Triangle to the outer banks, just a little longer than it takes to get to Wrightsville, which is ridiculously crowded. I'm happy to keep my vacation dollars in state. Why go anywhere else?

  • oceanchild71 Sep 4, 2007

    Actually, the 50 million figure is the 10% increase over previous years.

    Bane: Please do my family who lives on the Outer Banks a favor and sell! Crumudgeons like you give the area a bad name. And if you are so ignorant you don't know the name of the area where you own property, then you don't deserve to own that property.

    The improvements on US-64 have made what used to be almost a 5- hour trip in 1989 to now around a 4-hour trip (and now I am traveling from southwest Wake Co instead of NCSU). It used to be prone to flooding from rains as well as getting stuck behind Sunday drivers and farm equipment where you couldn't pass. The road is 100-fold better and much more safer. While many of the changes that have occurred sadden me, it is what it is. Heck, there used to not be any grocery stores on the beach except a couple of convenience stores that sold more than bread and milk. Every two weeks we would load up and head to Manteo for the big shopping trip!

  • momofthreeinFV Sep 4, 2007

    Here is a book that feature in its June 2007 articles about the area. It is NC Boating Life Style. The website is www.boatinglifestyle.com.

  • momofthreeinFV Sep 4, 2007

    gilligat-those towns that you mention & the area as a whole is a wonderful place to see wildlife and the beauty of nature that no was has touch. It is so peaceful & beautiful. The black bear, the alligators, deer, fox & other creature call that area home. If anyone would love to travel in that area, take your bug spray and snake proof boots! Little towns in that area need that tourists money to survive. Plus there is also towns known as Ahoskie, Windsor & Edenton that are wonderful places to visit for horse backriding, fishing, anitque shopping, lovely bed & breakfasts and historical places to visit. AND the food is southern country at its finest. So the next time you go in that directions, stop by and I know those folks will treat you nice and will be happy to see you.

  • Deep thoughts Sep 4, 2007

    I prefer the Outer Banks in the winter when there are no tourists. It is much more peaceful. During the summer I like the "off the beaten path" area's. I recently spent a weekend in the swamp paddling Milltail Creek. There I had the happy priveledge to see and photograph a large alligator gaurding the mouth of the creek where it flows into the Alligator River. There is more to the coast than the beach. I spend my money in area's like Creswell and Columbia. These area's and others have been cut off by the new road. Although Columbia has built an Andy's and a Foodlion, Crewell is quickly becoming a ghost town. These area's have lost the little money they used to see from traveling dollars. Next time you take a trip to the coast try the path less traveled. Who know's what you might find.

  • PikeMom Sep 4, 2007

    I have family on Ocracoke and I know they depend on "outsiders" to keep there deep sea fishing boats moving,the florist,the snow cone stands,and the canoeing right along with bicycle rentals.I Love going and meeting the "outsiders".Pretty soon they are not outsiders anymore, they are long lasting friends.Howard's PUB ROCKS.

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