Local News

Summer ad campaign: N.C. the place to be

Posted June 23, 2008 7:53 p.m. EDT

— State tourism leaders are taking action with an advertising campaign that promotes the Tar Heel State as great place to vacation.

The $150,000 print, TV, radio and online ad campaign launches this week in nearby states and in North Carolina in an effort to prevent tourist destinations from taking an economic hit.

About one-third of the state's tourists are residents; about two-thirds live within driving distance from big cities, including Atlanta and Washington D.C. With fuel prices averaging at or around $4 for a gallon of regular unleaded, 36 percent of those vacationers are traveling less this year.

And businesses, such as the Carolina Temple Island Inn, the oldest family-owned business in Wrightsville Beach, are feeling the effect.

"Where we see the effect, like everyone else, is in the shoulder season in the spring and late summer and fall, where you depend on new business and new people coming," said owner Stephen Wright.

At nearby Port City Java, employee Alyssa Horne says there is a noticeable difference from this time last year. Last year, there were two employees working during the day. Now, there's one.

"I feel like last year was busier," she said. "We had lines out the door."

A state tourism survey shows higher gas prices will lower the number of out-of-state guests. So, ads are running in nearby states and targeting North Carolina residents who would rather travel close to home.

A kayak and sailboat rental shop has already seen a trend.

"What we think we're seeing is that locals are staying close and find more interesting thigns to do at home," said Robert Smith, head instructor at Salt Marsh Kayak Company.

The Wilmington area is coming off a good year. Tourism numbers from last July to April were up.

While people may not spend as much on meals and extras, the local convention and visitors bureau believes the city will still have a lot of traffic this summer.