It was already evident from daily throngs of visitors to downtown Mount Airy and other local attractions, but the numbers are now in to confirm that tourism is alive and well in Surry County.
A new statewide study on tourist spending — which mentions the fact North Carolina set a record in that category in 2016 despite boycotts over the so-called bathroom bill — shows Surry is continuing to garner a big piece of the pie.
Domestic visitors to and within the county spent $121 million in 2016, an increase of 3.88 percent from 2015, according to an announcement this week from Visit North Carolina, the state’s foremost tourism entity.
These latest figures rank Surry County’s economic impact 38th out of 100 counties in North Carolina.
That is a healthy sign in terms of dollars flowing into the area which also translate into jobs.
Local tourism impacts for 2016 from this week’s report highlight three key areas:
• The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 840 people in Surry County.
• The total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Surry was $18.07 million.
• About $2.6 million in local taxes was generated in sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses. The state tax revenue produced in the county totaled $6.8 million, through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income.
“These latest numbers released from Visit North Carolina clearly demonstrate the importance of tourism as a strong economic driver in Surry County,” Jessica Icenhour Roberts, executive director for the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority, said in a statement.
“The goal of our local tourism efforts in Surry County and Mount Airy is to bring in more visitors annually who will spend more money and stay longer in our region,” Roberts added. “From 2010-2016, our tourism expenditures have grown over 35 percent, from $95 million to $121 million.”
Important for all
Roberts mentioned that some people might question why tourism is important to the public at large, not just owners of businesses such as restaurants, lodging establishments or retail shops and those directly employed in the tourism industry.
Based on figures provided by Roberts, the present levels of annual visitor spending and payroll totals in Surry and are creating tax relief approaching $300 for every household in the county.
Roberts provided information Thursday showing the spending figures for Surry were developed through the research department of the U.S. Travel Association to provide annual estimates on the impact of travel activity of U.S. residents on national, state and county economies.
Total expenditures include spending by travelers on goods and services during their trips, such as lodging, transportation, meals, entertainment and retail shopping.
The data are based on national travel surveys conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey of Consumer Expenditures, Smith Travel Research’s Hotel and Motel Survey and other public and private information sources.
A Travel Economic Impact Model (TEIM) is used to estimate travel expenditures and the resulting employment, personal income and tax receipts generated by these expenditures.
“Mayberry” is big draw
Mount Airy’s distinction as Andy Griffith’s hometown and a basis for the small-town setting of his long-running television show continue to be the main drawing card for visitors to the city.
That was the case with two men from the Tampa, Florida, area, Bob Porter and Gary Baker, who were in town Thursday to sample Mayberry flavor. They started at the Mount Airy Visitors Center on North Main Street, where they received helpful information about local sites, including those highlighting that theme.
“This is the first time I’ve been here,” said Porter, who lives in Brandon.
Baker, of Riverview, Florida, said he came to Mount Airy years ago, but both that visit and the present one were motivated by his longtime appreciation of “The Andy Griffith Show” and wanting to soak up Mayberry atmosphere.
Mayberry Squad Car Tours and the Andy Griffith Museum are among the entities catering to that interest.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.